Voters in Indian-administered Kashmir started heading for the polls on Monday, November 17, amid tight security. Voting for the 87 assembly seats comprising the state government is being held in seven stages until December 24, 2008.
So far, around 55 per cent of Indian-controlled Kashmir's 6.4 million strong electorate have turned out to vote, including many Muslims, who separatists and rebels are urging to boycott the elections to protest against New Delhi's hold over the Himalayan region.
Indian-administered Kashmir was put under direct federal rule in July, after the state government collapsed following its controversial decision to donate land in to a Hindu pilgrim trust. About 70 per cent of the region's population is Muslim. This year has seen some of the biggest anti-India protests in the Kashmir Valley since an insurgency began in 1989.
Presenter Sohail Rahman and guests Raja Assad Hameed, a special correspondent for the Nation, a Pakistani daily newspaper, the author and academic Prem Shankar Jha, and Victoria Schofield, an author and expert on Kashmir, will discuss the issues surrounding the elections and the wider conflict over the region between nuclear powers India and Pakistan.