Kolkata: At least four people, including an 18-year-old first-time voter, were killed at two different election booths in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, according to state police. The other three died after officials of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) open-fired in a polling booth in “self-defence”.
The two incidents took place in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi assembly constituency as the state votes in the fourth phase of the assembly elections.
The two incidents sparked a political blame-game between TMC and BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for instigating people against central forces. Banerjee on her part said that the forces were under Home Minister Amit Shah, who was conspiring to kill people.
According to the police, at polling booth 126, at least three people were killed after CISF personnel open-fired after they were attacked.
“CISF was in charge there (at the booth). Quick response team (QRT) of CISF reached the booth from where reports of clashes were coming. A group of anti-socials was obstructing the voters to enter the booth. When the CISF reached the spot, hundreds of men gathered and they attacked the force, they tried to snatch weapons. The forces fired in self defence,” a top police official told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
At least five rounds of bullets were fired by the CISF, said another senior police official.
However, according to unconfirmed reports, five people died in the incident.
Meanwhile, at polling booth 285, Anand Burman, 18, was shot dead by two miscreants on a bike when he was standing in the queue to case his vote along with his father.
“The criminals fired some random shots, two voters sustained bullet injury. One of them died at the spot,” the top police official, quoted above, told ThePrint.
The incident took place at 8 am. Two persons were arrested in connection with the incident, the official added.
A senior official of the Election Commission of India said the initial reports have reached commission. “At least four persons were killed. CISF team came under attack and they fired in retaliation,” said the official.
Polling was halted in the nearby polling booths by the EC for some time after the incidents.
After the two incidents came to light, a political blame-game has ensued between the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Prime Minister Modi squarely blamed Mamata Banerjee for instigating people against central forces at an election rally in north Bengal.
“Mamata Banerjee is instigating people against central forces, trying to foment trouble, “ said PM Modi.
He added, “What happened on Sitalkuchi (Cooch Behar) is sad. I urge EC to take action”
The sentiment was echoed by Nisith Pramanik, BJP MP and a candidate in Cooch Behar, who said that Banerjee “has been instigating violence against central forces for long. This is the consequence of such instigation. Armed miscreants attacked QRT of central forces.”
Reacting sharply to the incident, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she was “shocked and saddened” to see the audacity of the central forces.
“Today i heard that central forces shot four perons dead. They were voters and standing in a queue. Central forces are not my enemies. But they are under Amit Shah’s command. He is conspiring and killing people this. Why is this torture Is it because, BJP lost elections here,” said Banerjee at an election campaign rally at North 24 Paragana.
TMC MP Dola Sen, however, blamed central forces: “We lost four citizens. This is tragic. We want this highhandedness of central forces to be stopped,”
The party also issued a statement on the incident involving CISF personnel.
“Since morning BJP miscreants were blocking people’s right to vote while CRPF was influencing voters to vote in favour of BJP. This incident took place in Booth No. 126, Mathabhanga 1 Block, Sitalkuchi AC. When TMC workers went to enquire why people were not being allowed to vote, BJP miscreants launched an attack creating an atmosphere of chaos, following which CRPF open fired leading to 5 TMC workers losing their lives,” the statement read.
TMC has sought urgent intervention of the Election Commission into these incidents.
“It is also sad that the Election Commission has still not come out with response on this dastardly attack. We strongly register our protest against this police-ordered killing. Shameful that the forces are acting like goons in uniform,” the statement added.
The Sitalkuchi constituency has been held by Trinamool Congress since 2011. A total of 44 constituencies vote Saturday in the fourth phase.
(Edited by Rachel John)