The Election Commission of India on Sunday suspended two police officers for security lapses leading to the alleged attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram on March 10.
“Vivek Sahay IPS, Director Security shall be removed from the post of the Director Security and be placed under suspension immediately,” the poll body said in a press release. “The charges must be framed against him within a week for grossly failing in discharge of his primary duty as director security to protect the Z+ protectee.”
The poll body also suspended Praween Prakash, the superintendent of police of Purba Medinipur “Charges shall be framed against him for major failure of bandobast [arrangement],” it said. The Election Commission also ordered the transfer of Purba Medinipur’s district magistrate.
The Election Commission added that action will be taken against more police officers. “A Committee of Chief Secretary and DGP shall identify within next three days the other proximate security personnel below Director Security, who failed in their duties to prevent the incident and protect the Z+ protectee and take suitable action for their failure,” it said.
EC blames security lapses for CM’s injuries
Earlier in the day, several reports had said that the poll body ruled out a conspiracy in the alleged attack on Banerjee, saying there was no evidence to support the claim. The poll panel concluded that Banerjee’s injuries were because of lapses on the part of her security personnel, according to PTI.
Banerjee was injured on March 10 while campaigning in the district, where she is pitted against her former aide and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Suvendu Adhikari. She sustained severe bone injuries on her left foot and ankle as well as bruises and injuries on her shoulder, forearm and neck, according to the report prepared by the SSKM hospital in Kolkata. She was discharged on March 12.
The Election Commission had sought a report on the incident from the local administration of Purba Medinipur after the Trinamool Congress filed a complaint. The commission reviewed reports sent by the state government as well as its two poll observers, according to PTI. Based on these reports, the poll panel blamed the chief minister’s security personnel for Banerjee not using a bullet proof or armoured vehicle.
The Election Commission’s observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube said in their joint report that it was the responsibility of the district administration to provide “fool-proof security arrangements” for a chief minister’s visit.
“In fact, when it was expected that the CM [chief minister] might visit a temple situated close to the scene of incident and a separate contingent of police officers and men were deployed at the temple, it begs the question as to why a strong route-bandobast was not provided to stop the crowd from coming close to the CM’s vehicle,” they were quoted as saying by PTI.
The observers cited the reports of the district magistrate and the police to say that there were several changes in Banerjee’s tour programme. This, they said, necessitated a “floating security arrangement”.
“This we find to be bizzare and is definitely not in consonance with the security protocols prescribed for high dignitaries such as the CM of West Bengal,” the observers added, according to PTI. “The joint report of DM and SP also includes a report from Kishore Kumar Biswas, the Returning Officer of Nandigram assembly seat, where he mentions that there was no scheduled event at Birulia Bazar.”
The chief minister had alleged that the attack on her was a political conspiracy. She said that she was intentionally shoved by four to five people who had entered the crowd, and that no police officer was present at the scene.
On March 11, a six-member Trinamool Congress delegation had submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission, reiterating allegations that the party chief was targeted as part of a “deep-rooted conspiracy”. The memorandum cited social media posts and photos related to Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
The BJP, on the other hand, accused Banerjee of feigning an attack to gain public sympathy ahead of state elections. A delegation of the saffron party, too, met the poll panel, and submitted a memorandum seeking an investigation into the incident.
On the same day, the West Bengal police registered a case in connection with the attack. The first information report was lodged on a complaint by Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Sufian. The case was filed under Indian Penal Code sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt).
Elections to the 294-member assembly will be held in eight phases from March 27 to April 29. The results will be announced on May 2.