Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have shot and killed two senior separatist rebels, as voters gathered in other parts of the disputed region to take part in the latest round of state polls.

Police say they clashed with the suspected militant commanders from the Hizbul Mujahideen separatist group, sparking a gun battle in the southern area of Shopian Wednesday.

Security officials say one of the slain militants had escaped police custody in November. There were no reports of other casualties.

In the nearby southern town of Anantnag, police dispersed anti-election protesters who gathered to disrupt the sixth round of the seven-stage elections.

But officials say voter turnout was high, despite the protests and calls from separatist groups to boycott the polls. The separatists have argued that the vote will strengthen India's control over the Himalayan region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Separatists have held protests during all the recent rounds. Police say one person was killed last week when government forces clashed with protesters during the sixth round of voting.

The elections started November 17. The seventh and final stage is scheduled for December 24.

Indian Kashmir was put under federal rule in July, when the state government collapsed following a series of violent demonstrations triggered by a land dispute.

Islamic separatists have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence from India or for its merger with Muslim-dominated Pakistan. About 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the violent campaign.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.