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Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 14:09 UK

Arrests over Kashmir boycott call

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq speaks during a press conference in Srinagar India, Thursday, April 23, 2009.
Will voters heed Mr Farooq's boycott call?

Police have placed a leading separatist in Indian-administered Kashmir under house arrest after he urged voters to boycott general elections.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued his call on Thursday, when the second phase of the month-long poll took place.

Maoists in Bihar killed five people after Thursday's voting, police said.

The vote pits the Congress-led coalition and opposition BJP-led bloc against a host of smaller parties. The outcome is far from clear.

Security

Mr Farooq was expected to repeat his boycott call during Friday prayers in Srinagar before he was arrested. He had previously been undecided on the issue of a boycott.

INDIAN ELECTION AT A GLANCE
Eligible voters: 714 million
Polling centres: 828,804
Voting days: 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 13 May
Vote counting: 16 May
Leading candidates: Manmohan Singh (Congress), LK Advani (BJP), Mayawati

He joins a number of other separatists already in detention. They include Yasin Malik, who was detained on Tuesday, and Syed Ali Shah Geelani who was put under house arrest three weeks ago. Shabir Shah has been detained since August.

Previous boycott calls from the separatists who oppose Indian rule have been heeded by many Kashmiris but state assembly elections at the end of last year saw very high voter turnout despite the calls.

It is not clear what will happen this time.

Jammu and Kashmir is one of only two states where voting is taking place in every one of the five phases. The poll is staggered for security and logistical reasons.

Counting is due on 16 May and a new parliament must be in place by 2 June.

Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi (left) and President Sonia Gandhi (right)
The Congress party hopes to win enough votes to see off the BJP

The first phase of voting on 16 April was marred by Maoist attacks in eastern and central rural areas, which left at least 17 people dead.

Phase two was less violent, although there were sporadic attacks in areas around the country.

The bloodiest incident came after voting had ended in Bihar state. At least five people were killed when a Maoist landmine blew up a vehicle carrying security and election officials, police said.

The attack occurred near the town of Muzaffarpur, 70km (43 miles) from the state capital, Patna.

On Wednesday Maoists briefly seized a train carrying several hundred passengers in eastern India before releasing them later.

The Maoists have also urged people to boycott the polls. They say they are fighting for the rights of millions of the rural poor in India.

About two million security personnel are deployed for the marathon vote.



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