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West Bengal panchayat polls: At least 6 dead, 43 injured in widespread violence; reports say toll might be higher

At least six people were killed and 43 injured in the widespread violence that marred the panchayat polls in West Bengal on Monday, according to several media reports. The Ministry of Home Affairs has sought a report from the West Bengal government on the violence. A home ministry official said the state government has been told to provide a detailed report on the circumstances leading to the violence, the steps taken to restore peace and punish those involved in the violence.

The pre-poll clashes between the supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Opposition parties spilled over to several areas in the state, including North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad and south Dinajpur districts, despite massive security arrangements."There are reports of six people being killed", a State Election Commission official said.

Incidents of violence

A state election commission official told PTI a person was shot dead near a polling booth in Sujapur village in Murshidabad. The victim was a BJP worker, the party's local unit leader Subhas Mondal claimed. In south Dinajpur, a person was killed and four others were injured after a bomb was hurled outside a polling station in Tapan area, the official said. Ballot boxes were looted at gunpoint by unidentified people at 44, 45 and 45K booths in Murshidabad, ANI reported.

A person died in clashes between two groups outside a polling booth in Nakashipara area in Nadia. Another death was reported from Shantipur area of the district, he said. According to a report in ABP, a student was shot dead at Nadia's Shantipur during a booth capturing attempt for the ruling party.

Security personnel lathi charge on political party workers who were allegedly involved in ransacking a polling booth and public property during Panchayat elections, at a village in Howrah district of West Bengal on Monday. PTI

Security personnel lathicharge party workers allegedly involved in ransacking a polling booth and public property during Panchayat elections. PTI

A CPM supporter was killed and another was injured when bombs were hurled outside a polling station in the Amdanga area of North 24 Parganas, the official said. At Kultali in South 24 Parganas, one person was killed when a bomb was hurled outside a polling station.

In Cooch Behar district, North Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh allegedly slapped a person outside a polling booth, the official said, adding that the SEC has received a complaint about it and asked authorities to take action. Television channels showed Ghosh slapping the person. However, Ghosh professed innocence.

In Dinhata area of the district, at least 15 people, including voters, were injured after clashes broke out between two groups outside a polling station, police said.

Fifteen people were injured in a clash outside a booth in Nandigram area of east Midnapore district. One person was hit on the head with a knife while another lost his finger, police said. In Contai area, chilli powder was thrown at an Independent candidate and four others at a polling booth, they said.

In north Dinajpur, three crude bombs were found near a polling booth at Galaisura, around three kilometres from the district headquarters at Raiganj, police said. Of the three bombs, two were found on railway tracks, RPF sources said, and added that the bomb squad was informed.

In Birbhum, masked men carrying weapons and sticks were seen threatening voters outside some booths. Television footage from Basanti block of South 24 Parganas showed masked gunmen outside polling stations. In Bhangar, which was rocked by pre-poll violence and saw the arrest of a TMC leader, police resorted to lathicharge and burst teargas shells to disperse people following clashes, the SEC official said.

In Keshpur area in west Midnapore, police resorted to lathicharge and chased away men allegedly threatening voters. In Asansol, vehicles vandalised in Raniganj area of Asansol during voting, ANI reported.

In Malda, Debabrata Chakraborty, officer-in-charge of Ratua police station, was injured in stone-pelting by a political party's workers when he went to remove a blockade by the party on a state highway, SP Arnab Ghosh said. Chakraborty was rushed to the hospital and ASP (HQ) A Sarkar visited the spot, he said.

Political reactions 

Amid reports of clashes and violence, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien created a stir after tweeting a list of deaths under CPM rule.

A state BJP delegation led by district president Dilip Ghosh will meet West Bengal governor K N Tripathi and complain about the violence. "The TMC has turned the polls into a farce", Ghosh said. Senior CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, "Democracy has been murdered by TMC in Bengal".

The TMC termed the allegations baseless and concocted. "There have been one or two isolated incidents. The administration has taken steps in all the cases. We have seen elections during the Left tenure when we used to witness bloodbath and death", TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said.

CPM leader Biman Bose criticised the violence and said,"Election has turned into a commotion because no rules were followed. Police could not strengthen the security. That is why we have come here to speak to the Election Commission to find a solution".

More than 60,000 security personnel from West Bengal and neighbouring states were deployed for the panchayat polls. Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh are in the state to reinforce the security for the polls. They are aiding around 46,000 personnel of the state police and 12,000 of the Kolkata Police.

The state government is also using close to 2,000 security personnel from the departments of excise, prison and forests in manning the booths, an SEC official said. The panchayat polls are being held after a protracted legal battle in the Kolkata High Court and the Supreme Court involving the SEC, the TMC and the Opposition parties.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: May 17, 2018 07:18 AM

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