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Voters Threatened, Ballot Boxes Seized, ISF-TMC Clash, Bombings: Will Bengal Ever See Peaceful Elections? – News18

Ballot boxes confiscated, voters intimidated, bombing and firing at polling booths — the story of West Bengal Panchayat elections was written with violence and bloodshed.

While people say violence on polling day has become a ground reality, the ruling Trinamool Congress government denies it, and believes the “problem is only at some booths”.

A TMC worker was killed in bombing in Samserganj in Murshidabad. At least 15 people died, mostly TMC workers, in poll violence in West Bengal, out of which, Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad and Cooch Behar were most affected.

News18 was in Bhangar on the polling day on July 8, where some miscreants were standing with bamboo sticks in hands in front of a polling booth in Chapaganchi at around 7 am. There was no Central Armed Police Force at the booth so the local police were trying to control the hoodlums but were not able to do much.

Firing took place in another booth, Chak Moricha, in Bhangar, where there were bombs and blood. Here as well, CAPF was absent.

It is suspected that the violence started after Indian Secular Front (ISF) workers came to cast their vote, and suddenly they were attacked.

(Photo: Kamalika Sengupta/ News18)

There were more than 61,000 polling booths in West Bengal to conduct the Panchayat elections, and only one-fourth of them were guarded by the CAPF.

One ISF worker, who was attacked outside the booth, told News18, “They started firing, and my friend fell and another person got injured. Since last night (July 7), they (goons) have been intimidating (us).

Amidst all this, Bijoyganj Bazar in South 24 Parganas district, which witnessed violence on the last day of filing nomination on June 15 in which one TMC activist and one ISF supporter were killed in separate incidents, had an uncanny silence.

Shefali Roy, 80, who had a difficulty walking up to the booth, told News18 that it is her “birth right and duty to caste vote” when asked about violence on the ground.

Another ISF candidate, Hajira Biwi, and her husband, were locked in their house in Bhangar. “Since last night, they have locked us. TMC has said that if we go out, then they will kill us. We had informed the police but nothing happened. Not only me, they intimidated the entire village,” she said.

The police reached the place of the couple to rescue them, but they said they don’t want to leave the house due to the threat.

One of the villagers, Salima Bibi, told News18 that the government keeps saying ‘Khela Hobe’ but don’t allow the other person to play. “It’s not just the candidate, they are intimidating us all,” she alleged.

A TMC local leader had completely refuted the charge.

Bombing was witnessed in Sonpur Bhangar where locals allege that ISF attacked a local TMC leader’s house. Some local women told News18 that hooliganism was rampant. They had come to vote and suddenly they was bombing.

As the polling day came to an end, ISF workers carrying bamboo sticks blocked the road in Kashipur Bhangar. When News18 asked a large number of women about the incident, they said they were not allowed to vote. They were beating people who attempted to vote.

Murshidabad, Maldah, Cooch Behar and Hoogly reported ballot boxes being thrown into a pond.

Around 30 people were killed in the run-up to the Panchayat polls in 2018 compared to 18 this year. Nearly 14 were killed in the last election on the voting day.

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