Five people were shot dead in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district as violence marred the fourth phase of polling in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was addressing a rally in Siliguri during the same time, said he was “deeply hurt” by the incident.
“I will urge the Election Commission to take strict action against the accused. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families,” Modi added.
Commenting on the poll violence, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanded the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Speaking at a public meeting at Baduria in North 24 Paraganas, Banerjee said, “Shah should resign owing responsibility for the incident which is dastardly, cold-blooded and unprecedented.”
The chief minister said her party would bring out protest rallies throughout the state on Sunday, and asked TMC activists to wear black badges and demonstrate peacefully from 2 pm to 4 pm.
Banerjee said 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 alleged this was part of a conspiracy hatched by Shah. “However, I would ask everyone to remain calm and cast their vote peacefully. Avenge the deaths by defeating them,” Banerjee asserted.
Later, at a press conference in Kolkata, TMC leaders termed the Cooch Behar incident as “preplanned murder”, and also called for the resignation of Shah.
While one person died when miscreants shot at him while he was standing in a queue to cast his ballot, four others were killed when the central forces retaliated after they were allegedly attacked.
The first incident took place near Pathantuli area in Sitalkuchi when Aanand Barman, a first-time voter, was killed while he was standing in a queue outside a polling booth. Following this, TMC and BJP workers clashed in the area.
Later in the day at around 11:30 am, clashes broke out between Trinamool and BJP workers at the Jorpatki area of Sitalkuchi. On receiving the news, a quick response team of the CAPF reached the spot. Over 200 people were allegedly trying to forcibly enter a polling station. According to a report by the Election Commission, the miscreants tried to snatch arms from the CAPF personnel and attacked them. The central forces fired back in self-defence and four persons died in the process. Four others have received injuries.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission adjourned voting at booth number 125 of the Sitalkuchi constituency following the violence and has sought a detailed report from the observers and the Chief Election Officer by 5pm Saturday.
The Trinamool Congress, meanwhile, has claimed that the five persons who died on Saturday were supporters of their party. Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien took to Twitter to express his discontent. “When you can’t beat us fair ‘n square, you shoot and kill. MO-SHA, you killers. At your command, EC recently changed DG, ADG of Bengal police and the SP of the area where killings took place today. 5 dead. You both have blood on your hands. But then you are used to the feeling,” he tweeted.
“We condemn the role played by central forces and the Election Commission. We have lost five people. Four persons were injured. We extend our condolences to the family members. This should stop immediately,” TMC leader Dola Sen said.
Reacting to the killings, BJP MP Nisith Pramanik, who is contesting from Dinhata assembly seat in Cooch Behar, said, “Trinamool leaders have been instigating people to attack central forces. During public meetings, they have made provocative statements asking people to target them. They are the ones responsible for the deaths.”
TMC has already sent a complaint to the poll body alleging that five of their workers have been killed at booth number 126 of Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar.
“5 people have been shot dead by CRPF and BJP has captured the booth. All five were TMC workers belonging to a certain faith. This is a grave violation of law and the MCC on manifold accounts. I strongly urge you to escalate the matter on priority and begin an investigation at the earliest to apprehend the perpetrators,” the letter read.