At least 18 people were killed in clashes as incidents of booth capturing and voter intimidation were reported across West Bengal during ongoing panchayat elections on Monday. A voter turnout of 72.5% was recorded till 5 pm.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien seemed to downplay the violence, claiming that about 400 people were killed in poll-related violence in the 1990s when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was in power. The Opposition criticised the lack of law and order, with CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury denouncing the Trinamool’s “barbarity”.
Heavy security was in place for the elections. Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh are in the state for the voting in addition to the nearly 58,000 state police personnel.
9.10 pm: In reply to a tweet, Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien says “six families grieving tonight, six too many”. The Mamata Banerjee government’s target is zero and it will get there, he adds.
9 pm: Political scientist Amal Mukherjee, the former principal of Kolkata’s Presidency College (now university), tells Hindustan Times that President’s rule should be imposed in the state. “On Sunday, [Mamata] Banerjee assured the people that they could cast their votes without fear because adequate security arrangements had been made,” he says. “Her assurances have not yielded any result. It is a shame for the ruling party. There is no democracy at all in Bengal. This is nothing but fascism.”
7.42 pm: West Bengal Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha puts the toll at 18, says the identities of six of the deceased have not been ascertained yet. He claims that there have been fewer incidents of violence in these elections compared to previous ones.
7.25 pm: The toll has risen to 15, reports ABP Ananda. Seven people have been killed in Nandigram, Murshidabad and Nadia; three people in Kakdwip and Kultali; and five people in North and South Dinajpur, Amdanga and Coochbehar.
7.15 pm: The voter turnout till 5 pm was 72.5%, reports ANI.
6.15 pm: An unidentified Ministry of Home Affairs official tells PTI that the state government has been asked to provide a detailed report on the circumstances leading to the violence, and the steps taken to restore peace and punish those involved in the violence.
5.35 pm: Twelve people killed in violence in six districts, reports ABP Ananda.
5.09 pm: The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the West Bengal government to submit a report on the incidents of violence, reports ANI.
4.52 pm: The toll is up to 11. A 63-year-old man called Krishnapada Sarkar was beaten to death in Nadia district’s Tehatta subdivision, reports Hindustan Times.
4.45 pm: The panchayat elections in West Bengal have a history of violence. In the 2013 elections, 21 people were killed. Fourteen people were killed in one phase of the polls in 2008. In 2003, at least 61 people died.
4.34 pm: “No condemnation is strong enough to denounce the barbarity which West Bengal is witnessing today to ensure Trinamool Congress’ project of capturing cent per cent of elected panchayat bodies of the state,” says CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury in a statement.
4.27 pm: The voter turnout till 3 pm stands at 56%, reports ANI.
4.25 pm: “Election has turned into a commotion because no rules were followed,” says CPI(M) leader Biman Bose. “Police could not strengthen the security. That is why we have come here to speak to the Election Commission to find a solution.”
4.22 pm: Members of the CPI(M), the Revolutionary Socialist Party and other Left Front parties protest outside the state Election Commission, reports ANI.
4.20 pm: Congress workers hold protest outside Election Commission in Kolkata, reports Hindustan Times.
3.20 pm: The toll has now risen to 10, reports ABP Ananda.
2.54 pm: One more person has been killed in clashes in Murshidabad, ABP Ananda reports. He was not a supporter of any political party. The toll in the violence has now risen to eight.
2.25 pm: Unidentified persons loot ballot boxes from polling booths No 44, 45 and 45 K at gunpoint.
2.22 pm: The voter turnout in the state till 1 pm stands at 41.51%, ANI reports.
2.14 pm: Congress and Trinamool Congress supporters clashed in Murshidabad town, ANI reports. Trinamool Congress workers also vandalised a polling booth in Sonadangi. Subsequently, the ballot box had to be retrieved from a pond.
2.06 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the state election commission will be seen as complicit in the Trinamool Congress’ “project to destroy democracy” if it fails to act to restore faith in the political process, PTI reports.
1.52 pm: The Trinamool Congress questions the presence of Border Security Force in some border districts. “Are BSF government employees or BJP employees?” the party posts on Twitter. “Have they been told to help BJP?”
1.45 pm: A Trinamool Congress worker has succumbed to injuries in Nadia, taking the toll to seven, News18 reports.
1.41 pm: Miscreants vandalise vehicles in Asansol, ANI reports.
1.22 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien blames news agency ANI for “spreading rumours and amplifying a few, sporadic local incidents”.
1.15 pm: One of the six people killed so far was a youth who died when a crude bomb was hurled allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers in North 24 Parganas district, the Hindustan Times reports. The CPI(M) has claimed he was their party supporter. Two people were injured in the bomb attack.
A Trinamool Congress supporter was shot dead in South 24 Parganas when he was going to a booth. A 27-year-old succumbed to his bullet injuries in Nadia district. A BJP worker was killed after he was hit by bombs while going to a booth to cast his vote in Murshidabad.
A CPI(M) worker and his wife were killed when their house was set on fire on Sunday night. The party has blamed the Trinamool Congress.
1.08 pm: Trinamool Congress leader Partha Chatterjee tells ANI there are “minor incidents” taking place. “No major incidents have been reported,” he claims. “The administration is active in places where such clashes have taken place. Voting is being conducted peacefully.”
1.06 pm: Six people have died so far in the violence, reports ABP Ananda.
1.04 pm: Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien accuses CPI(M) and BJP of “ganging up with Maoists to kill/shoot/stab” three of his party workers.
1.02 pm: CPI(M) announces a protest rally against the violence during elections. The rally will start at 3 pm from Entally Market, Kolkata.
12.56 pm: At least 20 people have been injured after a crude bomb explosion in North 24 Parganas, ANI reports.
12.49 pm: Sudhanshu Trivedi of the BJP calls the violence “highly condemnable and deplorable”. “It signifies that culture of political violence under Trinamool Congress has engulfed the entire West Bengal and it is an alarming sign for democracy,” he tells ANI.
12.48 pm: In a booth in Munsirhat of Cooch Behar district, the presiding officer left the centre at 10 am as all votes were polled by 9.30 am amid violence, but he was sent back by police, the Hindustan Times reports.
12.40 pm: ANI tweets a video of clashes between workers of CPI(M) and BJP in Durgapur.
12.37 pm: A BJP candidate was allegedly beaten up in Duttapukur area of 24 North Parganas district when she was trying to enter a booth, News18 reports.
12.35 pm: Sanjit Pramanik, 27, of Nadia district dies of bullet injuries from clashes earlier in the day. At least three people have died so far, reports Hindustan Times. Two other people died in North 24 Parganas district.
12.30 pm: It seems like there is no election commission in West Bengal, as the state government kills democracy, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury tells News18.
12.28 pm: CPI(M) candidate Pulak Chakrabarti is attacked in Hooghly. CPI(M) blames Trinamool Congress workers.
12.26 pm: CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury calls for the State Election Commission to act against the violence to restore faith in the process. “Else it will be seen as complicit in TMC’s project of destroying democracy,” he writes on Twitter. “Allowing TMC to get away with throttling democracy has implications well beyond West Bengal.”
12.23 pm: Five local journalists are injured in violence after suspected Trinamool Congress workers captured a booth in Birpar, reports ANI.
12.18 pm: In Murshidabad, voting was stopped at a booth as clashing workers of the Trinamool and BJP threw ballot papers into a pond, ANI reports. A man was seen pouring water in a ballot box in a booth of Patharghata in Rajarhat.
12.15 pm: A Bharatiya Janata Party candidate was attacked with a knife in Bilkanda, allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers. He is currently being treated in a hospital, ANI reports.
12.12 pm: Residents in Bhangar, South 24 Parganas, block a road, saying that Trinamool Congress workers had captured a polling booth, reports ANI.
12.10 pm: State cabinet minister Rabindra Nath Ghosh allegedly slaps Sujit Kumar Das, a BJP supporter, at a polling booth in Cooch Behar district in the presence of police. The State Election Commission has sent him a show-cause notice. “I have not slapped him,” Ghosh tells News18. “I just tried to stop him as he was trying to escape with ballot box.”
12.08 pm: A media vehicle set on fire and a camera is broken in Bhangar, ANI reports. Armed workers of the Trinamool Congress allegedly capture several booths and drive out polling agents of the CPI(M) in the district.
12.06 pm: A video tweeted by ANI shows suspected Trinamool Congress workers stopping voters from entering a polling booth in Birpara, Alipurduar district.
12.04 pm: The state has not seen unfair practices at such a scale during elections since 1972, Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at the Rabindra Bharati University, tells the Hindustan Times.
12.02 pm: Two BJP candidates and a polling agent were reportedly beaten up in Tarakeshwar, News18 reports.
12.01 pm: Four people are arrested after incidents of firing and bombing were reported in Uluberia, News18 reports.
11.50 am: In Jalpaiguri’s Dhupguri, eight people were injured in clashes between Trinamool Congress and BJP workers, according to News18.
11.48 am: A suspected Trinamool worker sets a ballot box on fire at a booth in Jalpaiguri, and a man is seen pouring water on a ballot box in Rajarhat, the Hindustan Times reports.
11.45 am: In Cooch Behar, 20 people were injured in a clash between two groups, and some of them told ANI that workers of the Trinamool Congress had attacked them with sticks when they went to vote. They were taken to hospital.
11.42 am: In Nandigram, a CPI(M) worker’s finger was chopped off, and suspected BJP workers beat up 14 Trinamool Congress members, News18 reports.
11.40 am: In Malda district’s Ratua, clashes break out between Congress and BJP workers. Voters tell the media that miscreants were roaming with pistols and had held one of them at gunpoint. They forced voters to boycott voting, voters say, according to News18.
11.30 am: A woman was injured by an arrow in East Midnapore district’s Keshpur amid bombing and violence, News18 reports. Voting is stopped at a booth in the district after a polling station was vandalised. Polling agents of the Trinamool Congress were allegedly beaten up, while villagers set motorcycles of political workers on fire as they disrupted voting in Nadia.
11.30 am: A CPI(M) worker and his wife died after their house was set on fire in Kakdweep on Sunday night, News18 reports. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has alleged that workers of the Trinamool Congress were behind the fire.