Central forces opened fire in self-defence while trying to disperse a mob in Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency, said the special police observer.

People in West Bengal queue to cast their vote in the fourth phase of polling PTI
news 2021 WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION Saturday, April 10, 2021 - 14:26
Written by  Agencies

Violence erupted in the fourth phase of elections in Bengal in which five people were killed in two separate incidents. Four persons were killed when central forces opened fire on an unruly mob in Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency in Mathabhanga block in Cooch Behar district on Saturday. In another incident in the same constituency a first-time voter was killed, taking the total number of deaths to five.

Four persons were killed as central forces allegedly opened fire after coming under attack from locals, who "attempted to snatch their rifles", in West Bengal's Cooch Behar district on Saturday, police said. The incident took place in Sitalkuchi area when voting was underway, a senior district police officer said.

“As per preliminary reports, four persons were killed as CISF personnel opened fire after coming under attack in a village,” said the police officer.  "A scuffle took place, and locals gheraoed them and attempted to snatch their rifles, following which the central forces opened fire. Further details are awaited," he said. The TMC claimed that the four deceased persons were its supporters. When asked whether any action has been taken against the CISF personnel, the officer said, "It is for the Election Commission to decide. As per our reports, they opened fire in self-defence."

Clashes broke out between TMC and BJP activists in Mathabhanga area of Sitalkuchi while voting was underway, a source said. "Some of them gheraoed CISF personnel outside a polling booth and attempted to snatch their rifles, after which the incident took place," he said.

Election officials said a report on the incident has been sought from the district officials. The four bodies were taken to a nearby hospital. BJP's Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik, who is also contesting the Assembly elections from Dinhata constituency, alleged that TMC supporters attacked the booth. "TMC goons attacked the booth with an intention to loot it. Maybe the central forces opened fire in self- defence," he alleged.

Image courtesy: IANS

Sources in the Election Commission said that a preliminary report that reached the special police observer Vivek Dubey suggests that the central forces had to open fire in self-defence.

According to the report, there was tension at booth no 126 at Amtali in Jor Patki village in Sitalkuchi since the morning and as there were more than 400 people in front of the booth, the central forces tried to disperse the mob. When they were trying to move the mob away from the booth more people started rushing in and tried to snatch the firearms from the security forces. This prompted the force to open fire in which four people were killed.

The Election Commission asked for a detailed report from CEO Ariz Aftab. Deputy election commissioner in-charge of West Bengal Sudip Jain asked the CEO to send a detailed report including video footage of the incident. Jain also wanted to know what led the force to open fire on the people. The poll body assured of an impartial inquiry into the incident.

In another incident a first-time voter Ananda Baraman (18), son of Jagadish Barman of Pathantuli, Golenawhati GP, Sitalkuchi, Cooch Behar died when he was shot from a firearm by unknown miscreants after he cast his vote and came out from the polling booth. He was brought to the local health center (BPHC) at Sitalkuchi where he was declared dead. His mother was also injured in the incident, the police said.

"Police reached there and detained two suspects for their involvement in the said incident. Raid is going on at the probable hideouts of the suspected accused persons whose names have surfaced at the local level during preliminary inquiry. Additional S.P, Mathabhanga and OC Sitalkuchi P.S also visited the P.O and supervised the incident. Additional S.P, Mathabhanga is camping there," a senior police officer said.

Mamata appeals for calm, alleges conspiracy by Amit Shah 

Appealing to people to remain calm, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday alleged armed central police shot dead people standing in a queue to vote in Sitalkuchi. The chief minister speaking at at a public meeting here, asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to explain why five lives were lost in central forces' firing in Sitalkuchi in Coochbehar district during the fourth phase of polling.

Claiming she had long apprehended such a situation after watching the "high handedness" of central forces for long, Banerjee said "after killing so many people they (Election Commission) are saying the firing was in self defence. They should feel ashamed.This is a lie."

"The CRPF opened fire on people standing in a queue to vote, killing 4 in Sitalkuchi. I have been apprehending that the forces' would act in such manner for long. As BJP knows it has lost the people's mandate, they are conspiring to kill people," Banerjee charged.

She alleged this was part of a conspiracy hatched by the Union Home Minister. "However, I would ask everyone to remain calm and cast their vote peacefully. Avenge the deaths by defeating them," she said.

Banerjee said that the death toll in this election was far higher than that in the Panchayat elections held three years ago. "If you count the total number of killings since the elections began some 17-18 persons were killed. At least 12 people belonged to our party alone."

Banerjee said the EC owed the people an explanation on today's incident. "We are not in charge of the administration. The EC is in charge of administration," she pointed out.

"They have removed the senior IPS Surajit Kar Purakaystha. They have removed my OSD Ashok Chakraborty, who is a lower ranked retired officer from RPF. Yet the EC bringing in retired officers to oversee polls here," she said.

Modi condoles death in CISF firing, blames TMC for violence

Condoling the death of four people in firing by central forces in Cooch Behar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday requested the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident and blamed the ruling TMC for perpetrating violence during the polls.

He also accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating people against the central forces.

"What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident.

"Mamata Didi and her TMC goons have become jittery because of ground swell of support for BJP," Modi told an election rally here in North Bengal.

"Didi, this violence, the tactic of instigating people to attack the security forces, the tactic of obstructing the polling process will not protect you. You have to go out of power. Didi is asking people to attack and gherao security forces who are here to protect the rights of the people of the state," he said.

Attacking Banerjee over the culture of violence and "tolabaji" (extortion), Modi said people of Bengal had made up their mind to defeat the TMC.

"Didi, you don't preside over the destiny of the people of Bengal, they are not your 'jagir' (fiefdom)," he said.

North Bengal, he said, was critical to national security which has been undermined due to appeasement politics of Banerjee.

Reaching out to the numerically strong Dalit Rajbongshi and Matua communities, Modi said the TMC insults them, and claimed a party leader was shown in a video likening the scheduled caste people to beggars.

Inputs from IANS, PTI

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