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Violence Mars India's Staggered Parliamentary Elections - 2004-04-20


Violence has marred the first day of voting in India's staggered parliamentary elections, leaving at least seven people dead and several others wounded.

Most of the violence occurred in Jammu and Kashmir state, where Muslim militants fighting to end India's rule over the region have threatened to kill anyone who tries to cast a ballot.

At least one paramilitary soldier and two other people were killed in separate attacks and a landmine explosion in the strife torn state. At least seven people, including two polling officers, were also wounded in those attacks.

In northeast India, separatist guerrillas killed four soldiers and burnt electoral rolls and voting machines in Manipur state.

Incidents of violence have also been reported in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

The violence occurred despite the deployment of tens of thousands of troops throughout the voting states.

Voters in 16 states and territories are going to the polls in today's first stage of balloting to choose nearly one-third of the 543 elected members of the Indian parliament.

Voting will take place in other states over a three-week period, ending on May 10th. The staggered schedule will allow security personnel to move from region to region across the world's biggest democracy.

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