10 killed, 50 injured in Bengal panchayat poll violence

Kolkata: At least 10 people were killed and more than 50 injured on Monday in violence during the West Bengal panchayat polls, where around 73 per cent of the electorate had cast their votes at the end of balloting hours at 5 p.m.

The State Election Commission said the polling percentage was 73 at the end of voting hours, though the numbers would go up since 4.5 lakh voters were still queued up across the state.

“We have, so far, received telephonic complaints of six deaths. We are awaiting written confirmation from authorities on the death toll,” State Election Commission Secretary Nilanjan Shandilya told IANS.

A youth was beaten to death as he tried to enter a polling premises in Nadia district while a Trinamool Congress activist was shot dead in South 24 Parganas district’s Kultali, police said.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist claimed one of their activists was killed in bomb attacks in North 24 Parganas district’s Amdanga.

Three deaths were reported from Murshidabad while two were killed in East Midnapore’s Nandigram. Two persons lost their lives in Nadia and North Dinajpur districts.

“Three youths were beaten up by locals in Nadia district’s Shantipur area on Monday morning. Police rescued and got them admitted to a local hospital. One of them, Sanjit Pramanik, succumbed to his injuries,” Nadia district Superintendent of Police Santosh Pandey told IANS.

“Trinamool Congress worker Arif Ali Gazi was shot in the chest while coming out of a polling booth. He died in a hospital,” an officer from Kultali police station said.

Though CPI-M’s North 24 Parganas leaders claimed their party activist died in Amdanga after he was attacked with crude bombs, there was no police confirmation.

“We have heard of the incident but it is not confirmed yet. We are going to the spot,” an officer from Amdanga police station said.

Police sources said two people were shot in East Midnapore district’s Nandigram, famous for its historic land movement against the erstwhile Left Front government. The CPI-M claimed the two dead were party activists.

At least seven persons sustained bullet injuries in Murshidabad’s Naoda area, leading to the death of one of them. The remaining were admitted in the district hospital.

Earlier, polling to elect 38,616 representatives in the three tiers of Panchayati Raj institutions — panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishads — started at 7 a.m.

As the day progressed, reports of clashes, booth capturing, vandalising of ballot boxes and rigging were received from pockets of South and North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Nadia, West Midnapore and Cooch Behar districts.

In several places, gun-toting goons attacked policemen on duty at polling premises, leaving at least two police officers severely injured.

In South 24 Parganas’ Bhangar, the ‘Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee’ (Committee for protecting land, livelihood, ecology and environment), which is spearheading an anti-power grid movement in the area, accused armed miscreants of the Trinamool Congress of kidnapping their Panchayat Samiti candidate Sariful Mullick and terrorising voters.

The committee alleged that their candidate Entazul Khan was severely injured in an attack by Trinamool Congress-backed miscreants and was taken to Kolkata’s RG Kar Hospital.

In north Bengal’s Cooch Behar, Minister Rabindranath Ghosh was accused of slapping a Bharatiya Janata Party polling agent and forcing him out of the polling premises, following which the SEC sought a report from the district administration.

The Minister, however, denied all allegations and accused the BJP agent of trying to run away with the ballot box.

Violence also took place in East Midnapore district’s Panskura and West Midnapore district’s Keshpur where gun-toting miscreants gathered outside the polling stations and beat up voters.

Several attempts to rig the election process were also reported across the state as miscreants poured water into ballot boxes or set them on fire.

Initially, voting for the rural bodies was to be held on May 1, 3 and 5 but as the nomination process started in April, it was rescheduled to May 14 by the SEC following a Calcutta High Court order to extend the nomination deadline and announce a fresh polling date.

Statistics reveal that of the total 58,692 seats in the three tiers of the rural local bodies, 20,076 seats, or 34.2 per cent, have been decided uncontested, with the Trinamool bagging a whopping proportion of these seats.

These include 16,814 of the total 48,650 gram panchayats seats, 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat samiti seats and 203 of the 825 zila parishad seats.

The Supreme Court has now asked the SEC not to issue winning certificates in these seats.

}