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Sunday, September 5, 1999 Published at 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK

World: South Asia

Picture gallery: Indians make their choice

Voting in India, the world's largest democracy, got underway on Sunday, in the first of five days of polling

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Some 140 million voters out of a total 605 million were due to vote in the first phase, many of them women.

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Security was tight, especially in the troubled Kashmir Valley where voter turnout was generally low following a boycott call by separatists.

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Voting also took place in the capital, Delhi, where Congress leader Sonia Gandhi was among the first to cast her ballot.

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Electronic voter machines are being used in several polling stations in the cities.

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In the countryside, voting is more rudimentary but enthusiasm is high.

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Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from the northern state of Punjab but by Indian standards voting was generally peaceful.

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