West Bengal

West Bengal Assembly polls | Mamata blames Amit Shah for Cooch Behar deaths

Security personnel keep vigil at a polling station after Election Commission ordered stopping the voting exercise at polling station number 126 in Sitalkuchi, where clashes erupted between locals and central forces, at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district on April 10, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The death of four persons under the Sitalkuchi Assembly segment in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district during the fourth phase of polling on Saturday triggered a strong reaction from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who blamed Home Minister Amit Shah for the incident and demanded his resignation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed two public meetings in the State, accused the Chief Minister of inciting people against the Central forces.

Four persons were killed when Central forces opened fire at polling booth number 126 in Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra at Jor Patki gram panchayat at Sitalkuchi Assembly segment.

“Central forces have opened fire and killed four persons. From the very first day, I have been saying that Central forces are not my enemy, but they are conspiring under the instructions of the Home Minister. They fired at voters who were standing in queue to cast their vote,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said addressing a rally at Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district.

While the Chief Minister appealed for peace, she refuted the claims of the police and Election Commission of India (EC) officials that the Central forces had fired in self-defence. “What kind of self-defence? Who is injured?” Ms. Banerjee asked, addressing a press conference later in the day at Siliguri, alleging that video footage of the incident had been deleted. Ms. Banerjee will visit the site at Sitalkuchi where the firing took place on Sunday, and has called for State-wide protests against the firing.

Emphasising that the law and order is a State subject, Ms. Banerjee said that all the political parties in Opposition should take a note of the manner in which elections were conducted. “It is a shame on democracy,” Ms. Banerjee said. The Chief Minister said that West Bengal was witnessing an “undeclared imposition of Article 356”, and all police officers, including the Superintendent of Police, Cooch Behar, had been changed at the instruction of the EC.

Ms. Banerjee said that the Crime Investigation Department (CID) would conduct an investigation into the matter.

Earlier in the day, a Trinamool Congress delegation comprising senior leaders of the party visited the office of the Chief Election Officer and demanded investigation into the matter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Chief Minister was providing training on how to “gherao and assault security forces”.

Speaking at a public rally at Kalyani, Mr. Modi said that security forces conduct elections all across the country, including in the four States where Assembly polls had been concluded recently. “The issue is not with security forces but in the politics of violence perpetrated by you,” Mr. Modi said, accusing Ms. Banerjee of resorting to politics of violence. “With defeat staring Didi in the face, she is inciting violence in Bengal elections,” Mr. Modi said.

Earlier in the day, addressing a public meeting at Siliguri, Mr. Modi urged the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible.

“What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident,” he said.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 2:39:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/west-bengal-assembly/mamata-blames-amit-shah-for-cooch-behar-deaths/article34289824.ece

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