Bengal panchayat polls: Death toll at 11, Mamata says BSF intimidating voters on borders
With a fresh casualty, the number of poll-related deaths has risen to 11 in the last 19 days
On Tuesday, 27 June, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Border Security Force (BSF) should "work impartially" because the ruling party — indicating the BJP dispensation at the Centre — would not rule endlessly.
This statement, made at a rally in Jalpaiguri ahead of the Bengal panchayat polls (scheduled for July 8) seemed to be in response to the BSF's denial of Banerjee's allegation that it was intimidating voters in the border constituencies, saying it was "baseless".
Meanwhile, continuing the recent spate of violence that began on June 9 (when filing of nominations commenced) Babu Haque, a member of Banerjee's own Trinamool Congress (TMC), was killed in Cooch Behar district on Monday, June 26.
This last instance of violence was reported from Gitaldaha village, under Dinhata Block-I in Cooch Behar district. Four others were critically injured in a gun battle and are undergoing treatment at a local health centre.
According to eyewitnesses, sporadic clashes between the ruling party workers and an opposition unit started in Gitaldaha early this morning and, over time, intensified to an exchange of bullets between the two groups.
Police said that as the village is quite remote and must be accessed by boat, they could not get to it quickly to bring the situation under control.
Tension still prevails in the area and a police contingent has remained there to keep the situation under control.
This is the same district where Banerjee made allegations against the BSF while addressing a poll rally.
While addressing the earlier election rally in Cooch Behar, Banerjee alleged that the BSF was threatening the voters at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and asked the local police to keep a vigil.
She said, “I have information that some BSF officials are visiting the border areas, threatening voters and asking them not to vote. I will ask people not to be scared and fearlessly participate in the elections.”
The spokesperson for the BSF Guwahati Frontier (Cooch Behar is in their jurisdiction) responded that the chief minister's allegations were "totally baseless and far from the truth".
In her address in Jalpaiguri city, Banerjee then said, “I am not saying that everyone in BSF is bad. But I request you to operate independently and impartially. Modi is there today. He might not be there tomorrow. But you will be there to protect the country. So it is unfair to resort to torture on people. Rather you work together with people.”
With Haque’s death, Dinhata in Cooch Behar has witnessed its second death from poll-related violence.
On June 18, the body of Sambhu Das, the brother-in-law of a BJP candidate from the area, was recovered from a jute field. A day prior to that, the convoy of the BJP Lok Sabha member from Cooch Behar and the Union minister of state for home affairs Nisith Pramanik was attacked at Dinhata.
With inputs from PTI and IANS