Trinamool Alleges 5 Shot Dead In Clashes, Election Commission Seeks Report - NDTV

Cooch Behar Violence: The Election Commission has sought a report in the matter.Four people were shot dead this morning in Bengal's Cooch Behar district in a clash with security forces outside a polling booth.

Trinamool Alleges 5 Shot Dead In Clashes, Election Commission Seeks Report - NDTV
Cooch Behar Violence: The Election Commission has sought a report in the matter.

Four people were shot dead this morning in Bengal's Cooch Behar district in a clash with security forces outside a polling booth. The clashes, which took place as 44 seats vote today in the fourth phase of state elections, have triggered a blame-game between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.

The Election Commission has adjourned polling at the booth in Sitalkurchi, about 680 km from state capital Kolkata, where violence was reported as it sought a detailed report by 5 PM today. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths at a rally in Bengal. But he also hit back at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her party soon after the incident. "What happened in Cooch Behar is sad... I offer condolences to bereaved families. Mamata Didi and her goons are jittery because of ground swell of support for the BJP." 

Mamata Banerjee also attacked the central government as she demanded Amit Shah's resignation. "The BJP knows it won't win so it's resorting to bombs and violence," she said. 

The Trinamool Congress, blaming the BJP, has alleged that five of its party supporters were killed.  

"BSF and CISF are torturing people in villages. Women, boys and girls are being threatened that they should vote for BJP. They have gone and shot people standing in line to vote. Who has given them this courage? So many people were not killed during the panchayat elections. In the state election, 20 people have been killed and 13 of them from our party," the Chief Minister further said in a sharp response.

The violence unfolded, as per sources, after a youth had voted at a polling booth in  Sitalkuchi constituency and gone home, saying he was unwell but rumours went around that he was manhandled by security forces. Soon after, a quick response team of central forces arrived at the polling booth. Locals gathered around them and allegedly tried to snatch weapons from them. 

That is when the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) opened fire.

At Sitalkuchi, people who arrived at nearby hospital with those injured and the families of people killed alleged the central forces told voters to vote for the BJP and opened fire when they refused. 

The Election Commission has got a preliminary report from Vivek Dubey, the special police observer for Bengal, which confirms firing by the central forces. Details of exact sequence of events are awaited. 

Earlier in the day, at another booth, an 18-year-old first-time voter was killed allegedly after he was shot. The incident took place at booth number 295 at Pathantuli constituency. 

Anand Burman was waiting to vote for the first time when the clashes were reported. Initial reports suggest firing took place after clash between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress supporters. 

In its complaint to the election body, the Trinamool Congress said: "In Booth no. 126 of Sitalkuchi, 5 people have been shot dead after BJP captured the booth."  The party, in the letter by Trinamool MP Derek O'Brien, further said that "according to our sources on the ground, all five were AITC workers". 

"This is a grave violation of the law and the MCC (Model Code of Conduct) on manifold accounts. I strongly urge you to escalate the matter on priority and  begin an intervention at the earliest to apprehend the perpetrators," the letter further reads.

Targeting Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Derek O'Brien wrote in a tweet: "When you can't  beat us fair 'n square, you shoot & kill (sic)."

The Election Commission has posted around 80,000 personnel from the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) to guard nearly 16,000 polling stations in the fourth phase.   The highest deployment of 187 companies of CAPF - with 100 personnel in each company -  is in Cooch Behar.

Earlier this week, BJP chief Dilip Ghosh's convoy was targeted in Cooch Behar.  

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Bengal, which has been prone to poll-related violence, is electing its next government in a record eight-phased elections which began last month. Results will be out on May 2.