West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday alleged the killing of four people in firing by central forces during the fourth phase of voting for Assembly polls in Cooch Behar district amounted to genocide, NDTV reported. She also accused the Election Commission of “suppressing facts” related to the deaths.
“There was genocide at Sitalkuchi,” Banerjee said at a press briefing in Siliguri. “They [central forces] have fired just like a fire spray. They should have fired below the waist. But they have fired at neck and chest.”
At least five people were killed in West Bengal during the fourth phase of voting on Saturday, the deadliest day so far in the elections there. Security forces caused the majority of the casualties, killing four, outside polling booth number 125 under Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency in Cooch Behar district. Voting was adjourned at the polling booth after the violence.
In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen fired at voters at a polling station in the same district, killing a first-time voter.
The Trinamool Congress said that the four people who were killed on Saturday belonged to the party, and alleged a large conspiracy behind the attack. But the Election Commission has ruled out any such possibility, saying the security forces had no option but to open fire to save their lives and government property.
Hours after the violence, the poll panel banned politicians from entering Cooch Behar district for the next three days. It also also extended the silence period for the next phase of the West Bengal elections, which is scheduled to take place on April 17, from 48 hours to 72 hours. This will cut short the campaigning period.
At her press conference on Sunday, Banerjee criticised the poll panel for its decision, alleging that the Election Commission had barred entry of politicians to the district because it did not want her to meet the families of the deceased. “I wanted to stand by the people of Sitalkuchi today [Sunday] but I have been stopped for 72 hours,” she said. “The EC is trying to suppress facts by restricting entry in Cooch Behar.”
She said she will now go and meet the families on April 14, when the ban ends. In the meantime, Banerjee said, she spoke to the families via video conference. “I will also be helping the families as much as possible by using money from my election fund,” she added, according to The Indian Express.
Banerjee also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, saying this country was being run by an “incompetent home minister and an incompetent central government”, according to PTI.
“They [Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Centre] know they have lost in four phases [of Assembly polls], so now they are using guns,” she alleged. “We will take revenge for these bullets in form of ballots.”
In a series of tweets, Banerjee continued her criticism of the Election Commission and the BJP. “The EC should rename MCC [Model Code of Conduct] as Modi Code of Conduct,” she wrote. “The BJP can use all its might but NOTHING in this world can stop me from being with my people and sharing their pain.”
The Trinamool Congress chief said the people of Bengal “must answer every bullet with a vote”. She also called upon all Opposition leaders to unitedly take on the BJP and “expose the way” the party is contesting this election.