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Death Toll in Staggered India Vote Reaches 44

Asia: Authorities order anyone caught trying to rig ballots in northeastern state shot on sight. Caste conflicts fuel violence.

May 01, 1996| From Associated Press

NEW DELHI — At least six people were killed in political violence as candidates wrapped up campaigning Tuesday for more voting in India's monthlong parliamentary election.

Fearing further violence, India's Election Commission issued shoot-on-sight orders for anyone caught trying to rig the vote in the northeastern state of Bihar, where voting is to be held Thursday and Tuesday.

The order applies to 18 of 54 constituencies in which police expect trouble from the private militias formed to support political parties in Bihar, where clashes between high-caste Hindus and the lower castes are common.

The latest deaths mean that 44 people have been killed in India since campaigning began a month ago for the staggered election for the federal Parliament. The vote, lasting six days, ends May 30.

In India's last general election, in 1991, about 300 people were killed, including former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated by a suicide bomber during a campaign rally in southern India.

The election this month is expected to yield a coalition government, and opinion polls indicate that no party will obtain a majority in the 545-member lower house of Parliament.

Two people were killed Tuesday in a fight between rival activists wielding axes, machetes and sickles in a village in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh.

In another incident in the same state, two workers of the governing Congress (I) Party were shot and killed Monday during an attack by supporters of a rival political group, United News of India reported. Another person died Monday when explosives he was carrying blew up, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, in Bombay, unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle shot at Jayant Jadhav, a powerful Hindu politician, and killed his key aide.

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