Security forces fire as crowd attacks north Bengal booth.
Five people were killed in two separate incidents of firing during elections at Sitalkuchi Assembly in north Bengal on Saturday sending shockwaves across the State where voting for four more phases is yet to be held.
Four persons were killed when central forces opened fire at polling booth number 126 at Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra under Jor Patki gram panchayat at Sitalkuchi Assembly segment.
The death triggered huge political reactions and elections at the polling booth were suspended. Superintendent of Police, Cooch Behar Debasish Dhar said that about 300 to 350 people including women attacked guards with crude weapons at the polling station after a rumour spread that security personnel have beaten up a person who had allegedly fallen ill.
“The CISF personnel sought reinforcement from QRT (quick response teams) teams, and the scuffle continued with the people. When they (people) tried to forcible entering the polling booth and started snatching weapon, the CISF personnel opened fire which killed four people,” Mr. Dhar said. Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal Aariz Aftab said that the Commission has sought detailed from the incident from the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police.
The incident evoked strong reactions from the Trinamool Congress with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blaming Union Home Minister Amit Shah for the incident and the manner in which polls are held are a “shame on democracy”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Ms Banerjee of inciting people against central forces.
In another incident under the same Assembly constituency, an 18-year-old was killed when miscreants opened fire on him when he was returning from polling booth number 285 at Pathantuli under Bolenhati gram panchayat. Two persons have been detained in connection with the incident, the CEO said.
Sitalkuchi, an assembly segment bordering Bangladesh in Cooch Behar district was on the boil over the past few days and the convoy of BJP president Dilip Ghosh was attacked in the district. The ECI had deployed maximum 188 companies of central forces in Cooch Behar district. The Commission had deployed 793 companies of central forces across the state for the fourth round of polling.
76.16% polling till 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, the State recorded about 76.16 % polling till 5 pm on the 44 Assembly seats in the State that went to polls. Cooch Behar district where all nine assembly seats went to polls recorded 79.73 % polling and Alipurduar where polling was held on all five assembly constituencies recorded 73.65 % polling . In south Bengal, 10 assembly seats in Hooghly recorded 76.02 % polls , nine in Howrah registed 75.03 % and 75.49 % of the electorate had cast their votes in South 24 Parganas till 5 pm. Bhangar Assembly seat in south 24 Parganas witnessed the highest voting percentage with a turnout of 85.12%. The voting percentage is expected to rise as the polling continued till 6.30 pm.
Other than Cooch Behar, there were reports of isolated incidents of scuffle and violence where the car of Locket Chatterjee BJP candidate at Chinsurah was attacked. BJP candidate in Kasba Assembly segment Indranil Khan also alleged electoral malpractices. The CEO said that except the two incidents in Cooch Behar polling was peaceful.
With Saturday’s polling, elections have been completed in 135 of the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal. Four phases of polling are still to be held across 159 Assembly constituencies in the State. The fifth phase of polling will be held across 45 seats in both north Bengal and south Bengal districts. Thirteen Assembly seats in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri will go polls in north Bengal while 32 Assembly constituencies Bardhaman, Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts in south Bengal will go polls on April 17.