The fourth phase of panchayat polls in Bengal proved the bloodiest so far, claiming eight lives and injuring 18 including four children on Monday. The overall toll of poll days is now 16, with three deaths in the second phase and five in the third.
The deceased in Nadia, Birbhum, Murshidabad and Malda -- the districts which went to polls -- includes three supporters of the CPM, one of Congress and one rebel Trinamool man. Even the Central forces were targeted in Malda’s Ratua. They were forced to fire six rounds, in which a villager died.
In Murshidabad’s Domkol, a six-year-old boy got caught in a clash between political workers. Mangled by splinters from a crude bomb, his left hand had to be amputated.
In Malda’s Birnagar village, three children were injured when they mistook stockpiled bombs for balls at the house of Trinamool candidate Marina Sultana. The three, all aged below 10 years, are battling for life at the district hospital, said a local Congress leader.
In Murshidabad’s Jalangi, some men tried to chop off the hands of a woman when she emerged from a polling booth. She has been critically injured.
The police, though, sounded complacent. At the state secretariat, Anuj Sharma, IG, law and order, said, “Apart from sporadic incidents, the polls were peaceful”.
The opposition leaders tore into the government.
“The number of deaths indicates the extent of violence,” said CPM state secretary Biman Bose. Senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said, “Now even children are facing violence."
The ruling Trinamool, however, blamed the Congress and the CPM for the violence.
“It is the Congress and the CPM who have resorted to violence since they know they will be washed out,” said state tourism minister Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury.