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Children are the new target of poll violence in Bengal

assembly elections Updated: May 04, 2016 18:28 IST
Assembly elections

Left Front chairman Biman Bose at the Haridevpur residence of the eight-year-old child who was beaten up by goons allegedly backed by the ruling party on April 30.(Prateek Choudhury/HT Photo)

Elections and bloodshed have always been synonymous with polls in Bengal. For decades, toughs backed by political parties have been around in the election season, beating up people and members of rival gangs, breaking bones, cracking skulls and maiming many an innocent. But the 2016 Assembly elections have witnessed a new addition to this list, a soft target — children.

At least four children, all between three to nine years, have been thrashed by toughs allegedly backed by the ruling Trinamool Congress, even as the state gets ready for the sixth and the final phase of the elections on Thursday.

The first incident took place in Halisahar area of North 24-Parganas. On April 24, a day before the district went to the polls, a three-and-a-half-year-old girl was beaten up by local toughs who stormed her house to prevent her parents from venturing out to cast their votes. Her parents’ crime: They were CPI(M) supporters. The goons targeted the child after thrashing her parents.

The next incident happened at Darirchak of Haridevpur in South 24-Parganas, in the southern fringes of Kolkata. On the night of April 30, after polling was over in the district, a gang allegedly backed by the ruling party raided a house and beat up an eight-year-old girl after beating up her parents. The girl suffered head injuries.

To tackle the outcry that followed, Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee, a candidate from Behala (East), visited the victims’ residence. But the girl’s grandmother did not let him step inside. Condemnation came thick and fast from the opposition too.

“A child is the weakest point of the parents. In order to intimidate the adults, the criminals are stooping to the level of attacking children. It will continue until the administration takes stern action against the culprits,” CPI(M) central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty said. On Tuesday, leader of the opposition and CPI(M) leader Suryakanta Mishra expressed his concern over the rising number of attacks on children. “Nothing can be more brutal,” he said when asked about the phenomenon of children being targeted in the election season.

“All sections of the society need to strongly protest to stop this phenomenon immediately,” said Dilip Ghosh, the state BJP president.

The brutality reached its nadir on April 26 in Hariharpur of North 24-Parganas, a day after the polls in the district. A nine-year-old boy was beaten up by ruling party supporters after he made a kite out of a poster of the Trinamool Congress. According to the police complaint, the child was gagged, thrashed and dumped in a bush with his limbs tied up with ropes. The boy alleged in front of TV cameras later that before beating him up, the toughs called him “the son of a CPM supporter”.

The latest incident happened at Ramchandrapur in Bishnupur area if South 24-Parganas on May 2. A four-year-old girl was beaten up along with his grandfather at their home in broad daylight. “I always condemn attacks on children but let me tell you that the incident in Bishnupur was a family feud and not related to politics at all,” Sovan Chatterjee told HT.

“It is a dangerous trend. Out of sheer frustration, these Trinamool-backed hooligans are wreaking havoc. Until the people and all political parties unite to protest against it, it will be continue,” said Rahul Sinha, BJP’s national secretary.

Full coverage: Bengal elections