Election violence in the far northeastern Indian state of Assam claimed 30 more lives today, bringing the reported death toll for two weeks to 320 as few turned out in the second day of phased balloting.
Widespread arson and rioting was reported in the most severe civil disorder of the region's history. The central government of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi pressed to complete the state legislative election to replace an emergency federal rule imposed a year ago in the wake of disorders.
Only an estimated 20 percent of the 2.3 million voters in the mostly Assamese-speaking districts, where voting was held today, turned out amid threats by an Assamese ethnic movement to prevent any elected government from functioning even if installed.
The cumulative death toll in the 3 1/2-year effort to expel nearly 1 million immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has climbed above 600.
The election violence took a bizarre twist when contingents of police that had been airlifted to Assam exchanged gunfire with local police yesterday and today, resulting in six persons killed near the western border with Bangladesh.
The government clamped a tight lid on the incident, saying only that "some misunderstanding created by miscreants" had caused the deaths. It made no mention of central police involvement.
Foreign journalists have been prohibited from entering Assam and other turbulent northeastern states for more than three years. But Indian journalists in the area said the shootouts appeared to have stemmed from a dispute over the size of police patrols.
More than 50,000 central reserve police have been sent to Assam to deal with the election violence. According to the United News of India, Army troops were sent to one area to restore order, and curfews have been imposed in some regions.
Meanwhile, Indian reporters were escorted by security forces to the northern border area, where rampaging tribesmen with bows and arrows and machetes burned down 25 villages and reportedly killed scores of villagers over the weekend. The journalists described scenes of 6,000 refugees fleeing--reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of the chaotic days following the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947.
Reports from the Kamrup district, near the Assamese capital of Gauhati, said raids on indigenous Assamese by gangs of immigrants have left 20 persons dead. The accounts described long lines of homeless men, women and children carrying their possessions and leading cattle to safer areas.