Voting begins in Jammu and KashmirNovember 17th, 2008 - 9:44 am ICT by IANS
Srinagar/Jammu, Nov 17 (IANS) Voting began Monday morning for the first phase of the seven-phased assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir to elect a new state government amid a boycott call by Muslim separatists. Polling started at 8 a.m. in 10 constituencies spread over the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.
Braving the chilly conditions, voters in small numbers came out early morning in the Bandipora and Sonawari constituencies of the valley to elect their representatives to the new 87-member assembly.
Separatist leaders, many of them jailed in the run up to the vote, have asked people in the Kashmir valley to boycott the polls.
There are unprecedented security measures and dotting every road in the Kashmir valley are armed paramilitary soldiers and policemen.
In the fray for the first round of the polls are a record 102 candidates, including 22 in Sonawari and 19 in Bandipora constituencies of valley, the hub of the separatist movement that has claimed thousands of lives since 1989.
There are six candidates in Gurez, Poonch-Haveli has 13, Mendhar 12, Surankote 11, and there are five each in Kargil, Leh and Zanskar and four in Nobra.
The 10 of 87 constituencies going to the polls are Gurez, Bandipora and Sonawari (Kashmir Valley), Leh, Nobra, Zanskar and Kargil (Ladakh) and Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli (Jammu region).
The 10 constituencies have 1,064 polling stations. There are 58,073 voters in Kargil, 62,533 in Leh, 20,044 in Zanskar, 11,863 in Nobra, 84,726 in Sonawari, 86,306 in Bandipora, 15,330 in Gurez, 84,969 in Surankote, 77,853 in Mendhar and 96,758 voters in Poonch-Haveli.
Polling in Jammu and Kashmir is being held in seven phases. The remaining six phases will be held on Nov 23, Nov 30, Dec 7, Dec 13, Dec 17 and Dec 24. The counting of votes will take place Dec 28.