New Delhi, India — Police fired on mobs and rival party workers fought in the streets in eastern India on Saturday during the first round of State elections expected to consolidate the power of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. At least 20 people were reported killed and more than 1,000 arrests were reported.
The violence occurred mainly in Bihar, India’s most lawless state, notorious for criminal politics and Mafia style gangs. The deaths pushed the nationwide toll during campaigns and voting to at least 45 as four of the 11 states voted for new assemblies Saturday.
The trouble in Bihar broke out despite the presence of tens of thousands of police and troops at polling booths throughout the state. In some areas, security forces had orders to shoot troublemakers on sight.
According to the United News of India news agency, at least 20 people perished and 50 were hurt in the Bihar violence Saturday. No major including 12 candidates were killed earlier in six states during three weeks of campaigning.
The dead included a 10yearold boy accidentally shot by a policeman in Danapur, the Press Trust said. It said the policeman was attacked and beaten by an irate mob and was hospitalized in critical condition.
At stake Saturday were assembly seats in 938 constituencies in four states: all of Madhya Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. About 50 percent of the 118 million eligible voters cast ballots, choosing from nearly 10,000 candidates, UNI said.
Election officials at three polling booths in Bihar were arrested for tampering with the paper ballots, he said.
Reporting from Bihar’s state capital of Patna, UNI said police in at least 10 sites fired to break up mob clashes and prevent gangs from stealing or stuffing ballot boxes. Eight people were killed and 15 wounded by police gunfire, UNI said.
One police constable was lynched by a mob and 11 people were killed in fights between rival political groups, the report said.
More than 1,000 people were arrested and voting was suspended at more than 30 booths, including three where all the ballot papers had been marked as already cast before the polls opened, UNI said.
Police seized more than 100 motorcycles, two jeeps and 15 homemade pistols.
“Crime has become an inextricable part of politics in Bihar and the nexus between criminals and politicians almost endemic,”’ the news magazine Sunday said in its latest issue.
Article extracted from this publication >> March 8, 1985