In another poll-related incident, an 18-year-old voter, Ananda Barman, was gunned down outside booth number 85 in Pathantuli, which falls under Sitalkuchi in the Cooch Behar district after clashes between ruling TMC activists and the BJP.
In the first major outbreak of violence in the West Bengal Assembly elections, five people were killed, including four from CISF staff fire, in the fourth round of voting in 44 seats on Saturday, triggering a political storm.
An 18-year-old voter, Ananda Barman, was gunned down outside booth number 85 in Pathantuli, also in Sitalkuchi, after clashes erupted between activists from the ruling TMC and BJP.
Five candidates were also attacked on Saturday in separate incidents.
According to an official, 76.16% of 1.15 crore voters cast their vote until 5 p.m. Voting began at 7 a.m. and ended at 6:30 p.m.
Cooch Behar district, which was at the center of Saturday’s violence that killed five people, recorded the highest vote rate at 79.53%, according to figures available on the EC’s voter turnout app at 9 pm.
Four people were killed and as many were injured as central forces opened fire after being attacked by residents, who “tried to take their guns from them,” in the Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, said. the police.
The Election Commission ordered a halt to voting at polling station 126 in Sitalkuchi constituency where the incident occurred while voting was underway.
The EC requested a detailed report on the incident.
According to official sources, the preliminary report submitted by EC Special Police Observer Vivek Dubey said that a huge crowd of around 350 to 400 people gathered the central forces, as a result of which they had fired in “self-defense”.
The incident led to violence in the area where the bombs were thrown, prompting central forces to charge with batons to bring the situation under control.
Meanwhile, an already brewing storm in the politically unstable state erupted with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had previously criticized central forces in the state, saying she had apprehended this kind of incident in the state.
The BJP, meanwhile, condemned the incident and accused the TMC of “inciting people against central forces”, which it said sparked the clashes.
So far, a total of 1,000 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies have been assigned to conduct elections in the state, which has 294 assembly seats. Following the violence, 71 other CAPF companies were called in to help the polling station complete the four remaining rounds of voting in the state.
EC bans political visits to Cooch Behar
The Election Commission put in place certain restrictions on Saturday, including the extension of the “period of silence” from 48 hours to 72 hours, for the fifth phase of the poll in West Bengal after the violence in the district of Cooch Behar.
He also banned the entry of politicians into the Cooch Behar district for the next 72 hours to prevent any possible outbreak of law and order.
The Election Commission of India further orders that the period of silence for Phase 5 (i.e. for the polls scheduled for April 17) be extended to 72 hours and that no campaigning be allowed for 72 hours. before the close of the polls in order to guarantee the conduct of free, fair and peaceful elections ”, declared an order from the EC.
The period of silence is generally 48 hours.
The order also said that in Cooch Behar, comprising nine Assembly constituencies (AC Numbers 1-9), no political leader of a national, state or other party should be allowed to enter the geographic boundaries of the district over the next 72 hours.
“This is going into effect with immediate effect,” the voting committee said.
Mamata calls for Shah’s resignation following Sitalkuchi’s dismissal incident
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday called for the resignation of Union Home Secretary Amit Shah for the murder of the four people who had been fired by the CISF in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar.
“Shah should resign because of the blame for the incident which is vile, cold-blooded and unprecedented,” Trinamool congressional leader said.
Claiming that she had feared such an incident from the start, Banerjee said: “After killing so many people, they (the Election Commission) say the dismissal was in self-defense. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
“That’s a lie … Central forces opened fire on people standing in line to vote, killing four people in Sitalkuchi. I had long feared that the forces would act in this way. Like the BJP. knows he lost people’s warrant, they are conspiring to kill people, ”she said.
The chief minister also said that a CID investigation would be instituted into the incident.
Later, at a press conference in Calcutta, TMC leaders called the Cooch Behar incident a “planned murder” and also called for Shah’s resignation.
Sougata Roy, TMC Lok Sabha MP, said the party condemns unprovoked shooting by central forces on innocent people.
“We demand the resignation of Interior Minister Amit Shah. We want the Election Commission to release video footage of the shooting to educate people about the truth,” Roy said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah cannot accept their impending defeat in the ongoing West Bengal elections. This (dismissal incident) happened at the behest of Amit Shah,” said Subrata Mukherjee, a senior responsible for the TMC.
Mukherjee said it was a “pre-planned murder committed to create panic among the common people” so that they would hesitate to vote in later stages.
Earlier, Mr Banerjee said the death toll in the Assembly election so far has been higher than panchayat polls held three years ago. “Some 17 to 18 people have been killed since the start of the elections. At least 12 of them belonged to our party,” she said.
Modi accuses TMC of creating hatred and mistrust of central forces
Condemning the deaths in Cooch Behar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on the Election Commission to take tough action against those responsible for the incident and accused the ruling TMC of committing violence during the elections.
He also accused Banerjee of inciting people against central forces, sensing defeat.
“What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I offer my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take tough action against those responsible. Mamata Didi and her TMC minions have become nervous because of the wave of support for the BJP, “Modi said at a campaign rally in Siliguri, north Bengal.
“Didi, this violence, the tactic of making people attack the security forces, the ballot obstruction tactic will not protect you. You have to step out of power. Didi asks people to attack and gherao the forces of security who are here to protect the rights of the people of the state, ”he said.
Attacking Banerjee on the Culture of Violence and tolabaji (extortion), Modi said the people of Bengal decided to defeat the TMC.
“Didi, you are not presiding over the fate of the people of Bengal, they are not your Jagir (stronghold), ”he said.
CISF denies wrongdoing amid intense politics over incident
Meanwhile, the news agency ANI quoting a spokesperson for the CISF, who reportedly said: “Crowds in front of booth 126, Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi (West Bengal) attacked CISF jawans conducting the ballot and tried to snatch their weapons. In self-defense and to save the members of the polling station, jaws were deployed at the polling station. fired 6-8 shots. “
The response came after the TMC accused security forces of killing voters in a queue “in a premeditated manner.”
In fact, Banerjee had also questioned the Central Forces ‘version of shooting voters in self-defense, saying there was no video footage or other evidence to back up the Central Forces’ claims.
“Where did this theory come from? Who was hurt by them? Are there any images? After killing these people, they supported the act,” she told reporters here.
“A CID investigation will be launched to uncover the circumstances of the incident,” added the chief minister.
Meanwhile, TMC chief Mahua Moitra said the CISF fire raised several questions, including the use of live ammunition instead of rubber bullets by central forces, as well as the quality of training received. by CISF professionals.
In a series of tweets, Moitra said: “Does the CAPF need to shoot to kill during a democratic election? Why not use rubber bullets like the rest of the civilized world? @ECISVEEP must respond.”
The CISF lacks the professionalism of the CRPF and the local police, including the armed gendarmerie, in dealing with crowds and restless crowds.
Result – 4 deaths. @ECISVEEP stop leaders not answer, stop unleashing happy forces!
– Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) April 10, 2021
The main sources of the MHA confirm that with the exception of the CRPF, no force is formed in crowd control. Who is responsible for putting CISF in a QRT who went to the Bengal booth, lost his mind in the crowd and opened fire killing 4 people? @ECISVEEP Please respond – Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) April 10, 2021
Five candidates attacked in incidents of political clashes
One TMC candidate and four BJP candidates have come under attack in various constituencies across the state. In Dinhata, in North Bengal, TMC candidate Udayan Guha was attacked by suspected BJP militants.
He was injured when a brawl broke out with the Saffron camp over allegations he did not allow TMC polling officers to enter voting booths, a charge denied by the BJP.
In the constituency of Behala Purba on the southern outskirts of Kolkata, the car of BJP candidate and actress Payal Sarkar was ransacked by a group of people. She, however, escaped unharmed.
BJP candidate and Lok Sabha MP Locket Chatterjee was reportedly attacked by TMC supporters and her vehicle was allegedly vandalized in the Chuchura segment in the Hooghly district. The ruling party, however, dismissed the charge and posted a video of the incident.
In the headquarters of Bally, in the district of Howrah, the convoy of the TMC turncoat and candidate of the BJP Baisahali Dalmiya was attacked while one of the vehicles was ransacked by disbelievers.
In the headquarters of the Kasba in Calcutta, BJP candidate Indranil Khan faced a series of protests from TMC activists who had repeatedly gheraoed him.
In the Ganguly Bagan neighborhood of Jadavpur constituency, the stand agent of CPI candidate (M) Sujan Chakraborty was allegedly attacked by a “bogus voter” who threw chili powder at her, said officials.
A central police contingent was dispatched to the scene following the incident. Clashes between workers of the Indian Secular Front, which is part of the Congress-Left alliance, and the TMC have been reported in Bangor constituency in South 24 Parganas district, on the grounds that ISF election officials were not allowed to enter the voting booths.
With inputs from PTI