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Bengal polls take grim turn; 12 dead, many injured

A vehicle set on fire after clashes between two political parties during Panchayat Poll at Shantipur in Nadia district of West Bengal on Monday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

At least 12 persons were killed and hundreds injured during voting for the West Bengal panchayat polls on Monday. The entire poll process has been marked by violence, from the very first day of filing of nomination papers on April 2.

Reports of poll-related violence and irregularities were received from almost all of the 20 districts where elections were held. According to the State Election Commission (SEC) 72.5% exercised their franchise till 5 p.m.

During the six-week run-up to the polls more than 20 persons were killed and with Monday’s killings, the total death toll has crossed 30.

In 2013, when the polls were held in five phases in July, over 20 people lost their lives during the polling process. The reports of 12 deaths on Monday came from eight districts of the State.

Three persons were killed in Nadia district and two each in Murshidabad and Purba Medinipur districts of South Bengal. In Nadia, three persons, two supporters of the Trinamool Congress (Sanjib Pramanik and Bhola Dapadar) and one voter were killed, in three separate incidents at Shantipur, Nakasipara and Tehatta respectively.

Two supporters of the CPI(M) were shot dead outside a polling booth in Nandigram, once a hotbed of political violence. Two deaths were reported from Murshidabad district. A supporter of independent candidate Shaheen Sheikh was killed at Nowda in an incident where seven persons sustained bullet injuries and a BJP supporter, Tapan Mondal, was murdered in Beldanga.

One death each was reported in South 24 Paraganas and North 24 Paraganas when polling was on. At Kultali area in the South 24 Paraganas district, Arif Hussain Gazi, a TMC supporter was shot dead while Taibur Gayen, a CPI(M) supporter, was killed in poll-related violence at North 24 Paraganas’ Amtala. There were reports of one death each in Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinapur and Cooch Behar district. Four supporters of TMC, three of the CPI(M) and two from the BJP have died in poll-related violence.

House torched

In South 24 Paraganas’ Namkhana area, the house of a CPI(M) supporter, Debu Das, was set on fire in the early hours of Monday. Debu Das and his wife Usha died in the fire. While the CPI(M) claimed that the house of the elderly couple was burned down by Trinamool Congress supporters, rivals said the incident cannot be termed poll-related violence.

Director General of Police Surajit Purakayastha described the violence as “stray incidents” and said it was “far less than during panchayat elections held earlier.” The DGP said they have got reports of 12 deaths, of which only six were related to polls.

Video footage of people looting ballot boxes, setting ballot papers on fire, groups of people chasing each other and gun-toting masked men roaming the streets surfaced from several districts of the State.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 2:08:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/many-killed-in-panchayat-poll-related-violence-in-west-bengal/article23880550.ece

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