Despite violence and bloodbath in the fourth phase of Assembly elections in West Bengal yesterday, which saw five people get killed at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district, the state recorded a relatively low turnout of 76.16 per cent till 5 p.m.
A total of five people were killed in two separate incidents in Cooch Behar district yesterday. Four persons were killed when central forces opened fire on an unruly mob in Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency in Mathabhanga block, while in another incident in the same constituency, a first-time voter was killed.
Though the police have claimed that the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel on duty opened fire in self-defence that led to the death of four persons, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has sought an explanation and said that she would visit the village today.
However, the Election Commission of India (ECI) issued a note on April 9 evening that may stall the Chief Minister’s plan to visit Sitalkuchi.
“In Cooch Behar district where voting shall be over by today, no political leader from any national, state or other party should be allowed to enter the geographical boundaries of the district for the next 72 hours with immediate effect,” the ECI said.
The four persons who died on yesterday have been identified as Amjad Hossain (28), Chalmu Mian (23), Jobed Ali (20) and Nameed Mia (20). Seven others were injured in the incident, who were rushed to the nearby hospital. They are all residents of Jor Patki village and voters of Booth No. 126, where the incident took place.
Following the incident, the Election Commission adjourned the polling in the booth and sought a report from the special observers and Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab by Saturday evening.
According to the preliminary reports, when an unruly mob tried to snatch the firearms from the central forces at Booth No. 126 at Amtali in Jor Patki village, the CISF personnel opened fire in self-defence which left four persons dead.
“A 14-year-old boy, who had come with his mother to the polling station, suddenly fell ill following which a QRT (quick response team) van that was parked nearby took the boy to the hospital. Suddenly, the incident triggered a rumour that the boy was shot at by the central forces and soon hundreds of people started to gather around the booth. They started agitating and also tried to snatch the firearms from the force personnel. Unable to control the unruly mob, the CISF jawans on duty opened fire on the mob, killing four persons,” Annappa E, the DIG of Jalpaiguri range, told the media.
Ariz Aftab, however, was not ready to divulge the details. Speaking to the media on Friday evening, he said, “Voting has been adjourned in the particular booth and there may be a repoll. We have sought a detailed report from the District Election Officer (DEO) and the SP and a magisterial enquiry will be held in connection with the incident.”
In another incident, a first-time voter, Ananda Baraman (18), son of Jagadish Barman from Pathantuli village in Sitalkuchi, died after he was shot by unknown miscreants.
The incidents snowballed into a political controversy with the Trinamool Congress demanding a probe into the highhandedness of the central force in poll management.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that armed central police shot four people dead who were standing in a queue to exercise their franchise in Sitalkuchi.
Speaking at a public meeting at Hingalganj in North 24 Parganas district, Banerjee asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to explain why lives were lost in central forces’ firing during the fourth phase of polling.
“After killing so many people, they (Election Commission) are saying the firing was in self-defence. They should feel ashamed. This is a lie,” she said.
According to Election Commission data, the fourth phase of elections in Bengal held across 44 Assembly constituencies in five districts saw an overall voter turnout of 76.16 per cent till 5 p.m.
Cooch Behar registered the highest poll percentage at 79.73, followed by Hooghly (76.02 per cent), South 24 Parganas (75.49 per cent), Howrah (75.03 per cent) and Alipurduar (73.65 per cent).
A total of 373 candidates from different political parties are in the fray in nine Assembly constituencies in Cooch Behar, five in Alipurduar, nine in Howrah, 11 in South 24 Parganas and 10 in Hooghly.