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West Bengal Panchayat Polls: 12 Killed in Violence, Opposition Says, "Democracy Butchered"

‘The distinction between the TMC, the state government and the SEC has been completely obliterated’.
West Bengal Panchayat Polls

Several incidents of violence, claiming 12 lives, were reported from across 20 districts of West Bengal amidst panchayat elections in the state, on Monday. The violence, which began with killing of two activists of Communist Party of India (Marxist) in South 24 Parganas district, spread to other parts of the state as the polling commenced.

The polls were rescheduled to be held on May 14, following the verdict by the Calcutta High Court. The Supreme Court also, in its observation, had expressed concern after the ruling Trinamool Congres (TMC) ended up winning 34 per cent panchayat seats unopposed. 

Commenting on the latest round of violence, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the scale of violence makes it very clear that free and fair polls are impossible with such active involvement of the TMC-led administration. He added that the Election Commission has failed to execute its constitutional obligations. 

"The role of the State Election Commission has been obnoxious and the distinction between the TMC, the state government and the SEC has been completely obliterated," Yechury said in a statement

Samik Lahiri, CPM Secretary of South 24 district, in a letter to the EC, said, "Bombing is going on everywhere in the district [South 24 Pargana]. The District Election Officer is a mute spectator of the festival of butchering the democracy and a large section of police admistration (sic) are directly or indirectly shielding the armed goons." Two CPI (M) activists have succumbed to burns in the district, as their home was set on fire, on Sunday night.

Apart from this, 20 persons were injured in a bomb blast outside a polling booth in Suktabari in North Bengal's Cooch Behar district. Similar incidents were reported in Bagdah and North 24 Parganas, where miscreants allegedly stormed a poll station and tried to stamp ballot papers.

In Jalpaiguri, booths were captured. In Kotwali Police Station area, TMC activists allegedly tried to rape a woman CPI(M) supporter, while her husband was severely beaten. Polling agents were chased away from numerous booths.

Tensions also escalated in Bhangar where ‘Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee’ [The body opposing forceful land acqusition for power projects] accused armed miscreants of TMC of kidnapping their Panchayat Samiti candidate Sariful Mullick and of terrorising the voters. The region saw the murder of one candidate Hafizur Rahman, while another villager was murdered on May 12.

Forty-one per cent voting was recorded till 1 PM amidst the violence. The elections are being held in 622 zila parishads and 6,158 panchayat samitis, besides 31,836 gram panchayats of the state.

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