The Election Commission on Saturday said that the clashes took place outside a polling booth in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar after local residents attacked security forces due to a misunderstanding, reported NDTV. It said that forces had no alternative other than to open fire to save their lives and government property. Four people died in the incident.
The poll panel said that the misunderstanding happened after Central Industrial Security Force personnel were trying to help a boy who had fallen ill near the polling booth in Sitalkuchi. Some local residents thought the boy was beaten up by the CISF personnel and called about 300-350 villagers.
“Due to the misunderstanding, the agitated mob attacked the CISF personnel detailed at the booth with deadly equipment and some of them even tried to snatch their arms and ammunition,” it said.
The Election Commission said that the security forces first fired in the air but this did not deter the villagers. “Faced with no other alternative, to save their lives and government property like EVM [electronic voting machine] and other polling materials, the CISF personnel opened fire,” the poll panel said. “As a result, four persons who got bullet injury succumbed to their injuries at the local Mathabhanga Sub-Divisional Hospital.”
The clashes took place at polling booth number 125 under Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency during the fourth phase of polling in the state. Earlier in the day, the Election Commission had adjourned voting at the booth.
The Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have blamed each other for the incident.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a “planned attack” and accused the central forces of “murder”. She said that Bengal Police Crime Investigation Department would conduct an investigation.
“Home Minister Amit Shah is completely responsible for today’s incident and he himself is the conspirator,” the chief minister said. “I don’t blame central forces because they work under Home Minister’s order. We will demand his [Amit Shah] resignation.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised Banerjee and her party. “What happened in Cooch Behar is sad... I offer condolences to bereaved families,” he said. “Mamata Didi and her goons are jittery because of groundswell of support for the BJP.”
Following the incident, the poll panel has directed the Union home ministry to send 71 additional companies of Central Armed Police forces to the state for the remaining four phases of polls, according to PTI. Currently, there are 1,000 companies are stationed in West Bengal.
The next phase of polls will be conducted on April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.