Rain, violence take a big toll in Malda
CRPF firing killed one, a bomb explosion critically injured three children, a CPI(M) woman candidate was heckled by Trinamool Congress supporters and polling booths were jammed.
These were among the many grim scenes that played out as Malda erupted in political violence during the fourth phase of polling on Monday.
At Sambalur Anchal Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Ratua II, polling began a little late as the voters were heckling each other while in a queue.
Sensing trouble, the CRPF men on duty in polling booths 67 and 68 tried to bring order. But instead of listening to them, the people inside the polling station turned violent.
The CRPF men then resorted to a lathi charge and the locals gathered at the scene responded by pelting stones at the central forces. It was around 9.30 am, when the first gunshot was heard.
A CRPF jawan, hit on the face, then fired three rounds, killing 55-year-old Abdul Mannan, a local bidi maker.
Mojaher Ali, the Congress candidate for the Sambalpur gram panchayat, was hit on the head during the ensuing lathi charge.
“Some party men were distributing money both inside and outside the polling booths. When we went to stop them, people turned violent. The line of firing was wrong; he should have shot at the sky.But he was also taken injured in the ensuing melee,” said a CRPF jawan on duty at the scene.
Sambalpur gram panchayat had voted for the CPI(M) in 2008. This year, both the Congress and the Trinamool are keen to wrest the panchayat from the Left. “Congress provoked trouble there,” said state tourism minister and Trinamool MLA Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury.
However, Younus Ali and Nizam, both Sambalpur locals who had been busy moving Mannan’s lifeless body for postmortem to Araidanga Primary Health Centre, said CRPF jawans went trigger-happy. Mannan was a Trinamool voter and was shot from behind.
“We blame the CPI(M) and CRPF for his death,” said Mohammed Illyas Ali, a local.
At about 7.45 am, CPI(M) gram panchayat candidate Sumitra Rajak filed an FIR against Trinamool supporters for beating her up inside the Byaspur Primary School polling station.
She claimed she was heckled by Trinamool’s Swapan Mondol and was pushed to a nearby drain.
The Byaspur gram panchayat voted for Trinamool in 2003 and the CPI(M) in 2008.
This time, the 1000-odd voters of this village seemed determined to vote the Trinamool back.
“To ensure their victory, the Trinamool supporters had over the last month run a terror routine in the area. They even dolled out cash inducements and treated locals to chicken and booze to win their votes,” said Sailen Chowdhury, a local CPI(M) supporter.