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THE WEEK AHEAD

NEW DELHI : Once More in Punjab

February 18, 1992

Amid threats that ballots will be answered with bullets, the Indian government again will attempt to hold state and federal elections in war-torn Punjab state Wednesday, defying a boycott call by Sikh militants that is likely to cause widespread bloodshed and low voter turnout.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian army and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the state, and 32 heavily armed bodyguards have been assigned to each of the more than 600 candidates vying for places in Punjab's 115-seat state assembly and for 13 parliamentary seats. Last June, authorities canceled a similar attempt at the last minute after militants killed 27 candidates.

The Sikh militant crusade is the deadliest of India's secessionist insurgent movements, already responsible for 350 deaths this year on top of the 5,800 who died in the struggle in 1991.

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