At least five people were killed in election-related violence in India’s West Bengal state on Saturday, officials said, the deadliest day so far in multi-phase voting there.
Clashes outside a polling station in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on Saturday morning, in which four people died, took place after a local mob attacked security forces over a misunderstanding, the Election Commission has said, adding that the CISF personnel had to open fire to “save their lives and government property like EVMs”.
In a separate incident, unidentified gunmen fired at voters at another polling booth in the same district, killing one person.
The election panel says the misunderstanding began when the central security forces were trying to help a sick boy near the polling booth when some locals thought the boy was beaten up by Central Industrial Security Force or CISF personnel, and assembled nearly 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 says the security personnel first fired in the air but it did not deter the mob. “Faced with no other alternative, to save their lives and government property like EVM and other polling materials, the CISF personnel opened fire. As a result, four persons who got bullet injury succumbed to their injuries at the local Mathabhanga Sub-Divisional Hospital,” the Election Commission added.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called it a “planned attack” and accused the central forces of “murder”.
“Home Minister Amit Shah is completely responsible for today’s incident and he himself is the conspirator. I don’t blame central forces because they work under the Home Minister’s order. We will demand his resignation,” she said.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Ms Banerjee. “Mamata Didi and her goons are jittery because of groundswell of support for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).”
Mr Modi and his top ministers have campaigned hard to bring their Bharatiya Janata Party to power in the big eastern state for the first time. They are facing a tough challenge from the Trinamool party, a regional group.
Elections in the state of West Bengal are usually marred by deadly fights between party workers. Authorities have deployed nearly 80,000 additional central security forces to keep the peace during this year’s voting, an eight-phase process that began on March 27 and ends on April 29.
Previous rounds have been largely peaceful.