West Bengal Election: EC stops Polling at booth in Cooch Behar after 4 die in Firing

Cooch Behar Firing

The Election Commission (EC) on Saturday ordered adjournment of polls at polling station number 126 in the Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency of West Bengal amid reports of violence.

A spokesperson of the poll panel said the decision was based on an interim report filed by special observers. Detailed reports have been sought from them and the state Chief Electoral Officer by 5 pm.

The decision comes against the backdrop of four persons being 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.

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.”

“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 EC to decide. As per our reports, they opened fire in self-defence.”

Official sources in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) told news agency PTI the incident took place at Mathabhanga polling booth around 9.40 am.

“A group of people started pelting stones to thwart the voters from casting their ballots and they got into a scuffle with our troops and those from the local police deployed there,” a source said.

The force personnel fired in the air after our quick reaction team (QRT) vehicle was damaged by the mob, sources said.

They added that the personnel later opened fire “in self-defence and to protect the booth and the polling staff” in which one person was killed while 3-4 others suffered bullet injuries.

Election officials said a report on the incident has been sought from the district officials.

The four bodies were taken to a nearby hospital.

Earlier in the morning, a first-time voter was shot dead by unidentified persons outside a polling booth in the same Sitalkuchi assembly constituency area.

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 said.

Meanwhile, 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 fourth phase of polling.

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