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1983: Hundreds die in Assam poll violence
Hundreds of people have died in Assam as fierce fighting rages in the run-up to the election.

Villages have been set on fire and bridges and offices have been burnt amid reports that up to 600 people have been killed in the north-eastern India state.

Hundreds of villagers are reported to have been hacked and speared to death by tribesmen around the area of Nellie.

Anti-government protesters have clashed with police and paramilitary forces as students campaigned against the state assembly election.

They say they are protesting at the inclusion of large numbers of illegal immigrants on voting lists.

The respected newspaper The Hindu has called for the election to be called off amid reports that some Assamese civil servants have refused to do election duty because of fears for their safety.

No-one has the right to stop the election
Indira Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said that "no one has the right to stop the election".

Fresh polling has been ordered in some districts after booths were taken over, ballot boxes stolen and voters intimidated. Turnout was said to be low as militants warned local people not to go to the polls.

There are reported to be more than 70,000 police and paramilitary forces trying to keep order amid rioting and looting in several districts.

Groups of Assamese have been fighting immigrants from Bangladesh with machetes, petrol bombs and stones.

Some people died in these communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims while others were killed when security forces opened fire on crowds.

Many women and children are thought to have died in the rice growing area, with bodies found in streams.

Sixteen villages were burnt down and up to 6,000 people have been left homeless, with thousands living in a refugee camp.

Thousands of people are fleeing from Assam to the neighbouring state of West Bengal and to the north-eastern area of Arunachal Pradesh to escape the violence.

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Indira Gandhi
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi says no-one has the right to stop the election



In Context
Eyewitnesses reported that 1,000 people died in the election violence although communications in many areas were poor and it was difficult to estimate the final number of dead.

According to unofficial figures, nearly 3,000 Muslims died in the riots, massacred by the ethnic Assamese and Lalungs who wanted to evict them as part of protests against so-called foreigners.

The movement ended in 1985, six years after it started, when Delhi signed an agreement with the protest leaders, promising to deport illegal immigrants.

Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, ordered a grant of 330,000, after touring areas where hundreds of people died in attacks by tribesmen.

Mrs Gandhi's Congress Party won the Assembly election with a two-thirds majority.

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