Tribune News Service
Kolkata, April 10
Five persons died, including four in firing by central forces, in Sitalkuchi segment of Cooch Behar during the fourth phase of polling in West Bengal on Saturday, triggering a political storm even as a turnout of 76.16 per cent was recorded across 44 constituencies.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s resignation over the killings while Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of perpetuating a culture of violence in the state.
Modi, who addressed two rallies at Siliguri and Krishnanagar in Nadia district, accused Banerjee of instigating people against central forces and said the problem lay with her politics of “rigging elections and violence”. “Didi is giving instructions on how to gherao and beat up our security forces. She has stooped to this level as she can see her chair slipping away,” he said. Making a strong defence of the central forces deployed for election duty in Bengal amid allegations of high-handedness by the TMC, Modi said they recently facilitated polls in four other states and there were no complaints. Banerjee, speaking at a public meeting in North 24 Parganas, said, “Shah should resign owing responsibility for the incident which is dastardly, cold-blooded and unprecedented.” The Trinamool supremo said her party would bring out protest rallies throughout the state on Sunday. She asked TMC activists to wear black badges and demonstrate peacefully from 2 pm to 4 pm.
Banerjee claimed she had long apprehended that central forces would act in such a manner. “As BJP knows it has lost the people’s mandate, they are conspiring to kill them,” she said. Cooch Behar SP Debasish Djar said the jawans, belonging to the CISF, opened fire allegedly after a mob of around 350 villagers, including women, attacked them with crude weapons and tried to snatch their firearms near booth number 126 in Sitalkuchi.
The CISF issued a detailed statement claiming around 9.35 am, its quick reaction team was attacked by a mob of about 50 to 60 people who were “resisting voters from reaching the polling booths”.
“Chaos ensued when a child fell down and the mob started vandalising CISF vehicles and attacked jawans. After an hour, another group of around 150 people joined in and started manhandling the polling staff. A few miscreants tried to snatch the weapons of CISF personnel.
“Our personnel fired two rounds into the air, but the mob continued advancing aggressively... Sensing imminent danger to their life, the personnel fired seven more rounds towards the advancing mob,” the statement said. The polling in the booth was stopped following the incident. In another incident, Anand Burman, a first-time voter, was shot by alleged TMC supporters when he was standing in queue outside a polling booth at Paglapir under Sitalkuchi.
Four more phases of polling (for remaining 159 seats) are slated to take place in the state to complete the poll process. The polling in 91 segments had taken place in the first three phases. The EC today directed the MHA to rush 71 additional companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) to West Bengal for the conduct of the remaining four phases. The EC also suspended the polls at polling station number 126 in Sitalkuchi. It also gave a clean-chit to CISF saying its personnel opened fire “in self-defence and to protect polling staff”.
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