Violence rocked Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi assembly constituency in poll-bound West Bengal on Saturday resulting in five casualties. An 18-year-old first-time voter was reportedly shot dead while in another incident, four people were killed, police officials said. Polling at Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi station has been adjourned while the Election Commission has sought a report in the matter by 5 pm.
The first incident took place around 8 am, within an hour after the polling in 44 constituencies took off. "The deceased has been Ananda Barman, 18. He was a first-time voter. We have arrested two people in the matter," Debasish Dhar, superintendent of police (SP), Cooch Behar district, said. While the BJP claimed that Barman was a party supporter, the TMC alleged he was shot by BJP supporters. The incident followed a clash between BJP and TMC workers and supporters near booth number 285.
In the second incident, the central force personnel were attacked and the casualties occurred when they fired in retaliation, SP Dhar said.
"4 persons got killed in firing at Sitalkuchi. We are collecting information about the injured," said Vishal Garg, IG North Bengal.
Sporadic incidents of violence have also started pouring in from other parts of the district. The Election Commission has sought a report in the matter.
The TMC has alleged that BJP workers did not allow its polling agents to enter the voting booths at many places under Dinhata assembly constituency.
Malati Rava Roy the BJP Cooch Behar district committee president said, "Barman belonged to the BJP family as his elder brother is the head of the local committee under Boleynauhati gram panchayat. It was the TMC goons who killed him."
Rabindranath Ghosh, a senior TMC leader and the North Bengal development minister denied the involvement of TMC supporters in the incident. "It was BJP activists who, in their desperate move to create fear psychosis, killed Barman," Gosh said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the violence that occurred in Cooch Behar on Saturday and expressed his condolences. He said, "Didi and her goons have become jittery seeing the people's support in favour of BJP".
"Seeing her regime coming to an end, Didi has stooped down to this level. But I would like to make it clear to the TMC, its goons and Didi that their whims won't work in Bengal. I urge the ECI to take stern actions against the guilty in the Cooch Behar case. This violence, inciting people against the central forces and creating hindrances in the poll process won't be able to save you didi," PM Modi said while addressing a rally in Siliguri in north Bengal on Saturday.
TMC MP and national president of the party's youth wing, Abhishek Banerjee, took note of the violence in Cooch Behar and expressed his condolences.
"Heart wrenching reports of 5 innocent people shot dead by Central Forces coming in from Coochbehar. @AmitShah is this your vision for Bengal when u call for turning Bengal into 'SonarBangla' ?" Banerjee tweeted.