West Bengal elections 2021: Four killed as security forces open fire on armed mob in Cooch Behar’s Seetalkuchi

Kolkata: What was being feared as a distinct possibility — and the portends of which were clearly evident all through campaigning and the three phases of polling conducted so far in these assembly elections in West Bengal — came through in the most ugly and unfortunate terms possible on Saturday morning as five people lost their lives in electoral violence as the state entered the fourth phase of electioneering.

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Until the time of writing this report, there were reports of one person being killed in violence at a polling booth in Cooch Behar district, while four others lost their lives when the Central Forces opened fire on violent armed mob at polling booth No 126 at Jor Patki in the Seetalkuchi constituency of the same district on Saturday morning. Election Commission of India (ECI) adjourned polling in Booth No 126 of Seetalkuchi constituency.

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Two days ago, Dilip Ghosh, the president of the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was attacked in Seetalkuchi after he was returning from an election rally. Both Ghosh and his chauffeur sustained injuries while Ghosh’s car was severely damaged. At one point, Ghosh was seen seated on the front seat of his SUV with a helmet on.

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While Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths in his address at an election rally elsewhere in the state on Saturday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attacked Federal Home Minister Amit Shah, saying that the home minister “was influencing the Central Forces”. Mamata said: “We have to take revenge and the revenge is to vote them out.”

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Exhorting the masses

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Addressing an election rally in Siliguri on Saturday, Modi, taking a jibe at Mamata, said: “Even after ten years in power, a chief minister is threatening to barrack the Central Forces personnel and exhorting the masses to turn against them in order to win an election!” Mamata had, in recent times, made several comments about what she alleged as a “partisan” role of the Central Forces in these elections. On one occasion, she urged voters to “gherao” the personnel and hand them over to the police for any breach of decorum, while on another occasion, she appealed to the women primarily in rural areas to step out of their houses with kitchen tools and stop the “atrocities” by Central Forces.

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There were reports of attacks by Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers and supporters on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Indranil Khan in the Kasba constituency in South Kolkata, while the vehicle of another BJP candidate, Locket Chatterjee, in the Chinsurah constituency outside Kolkata was vandalised.

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Fourth phase

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Reports of clashes between BJP and TMC supporters have poured in from various other parts of the state since early Saturday morning. In the fourth phase of elections on Saturday, polling was being conducted in 44 constituencies in the districts of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Howrah and South 24 Parganas.

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The day’s most serious incident of violence took place in Booth No 126 of the Seetalkuchi constituency of Cooch Behar, where personnel from Central Industrial Security Forces (CISF) opened fire on a mob that turned violent outside the booth. Sources told Gulf News in Kolkata that according to a report filed with the Election Comission of India by Vivek Dubey, the Special Police Observer for the district, there were attacks on the Central Forces personnel first inside the booth. A polling agent was severely beaten up inside Booth No 126.

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When the CISF personnel intervened and tried to disperse the attackers, a much larger, armed mob of around 350 people gathered outside the booth and attacked the men in uniform. Meanwhile, an injured person was moved to hospital by the security forces. But a rumour spread like wildfire that the youth had died in firing by the security forces. This enraged the mob even more. Initially, the CISF personnel tried to control them without applying force, but they had to resort to firing when some from the mob tried to snatch the weapons from some of the CISF personnel on duty, resulting in the deaths of four people.

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