To provide adequate security, voting has been staggered over five phases in Kashmir, where separatist groups have called for a boycott.

Separatists say New Delhi is trying to boost the legitimacy of its rule in the region, which both India and Pakistan claim, by holding elections.

Last year, state polls in the troubled Himalayan region had a turnout of more than 60 per cent, a boost for New Delhi, though many saw it as a vote for better governance rather than acceptance of Indian rule.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the disputed region since an anti-India insurgency broke out in 1989.

But violence involving Indian troops and separatists has declined significantly since India and Pakistan launched a peace process in 2004.