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Shots, slumber & stones mar 4th phase polling in Bengal

Central troopers fire in air at two booths

By Snehamoy Chakraborty in Suri

  • Published 30.04.19, 1:20 AM
  • Updated 30.04.19, 1:20 AM
The bullet mark on the wall inside booth 284.
The bullet mark on the wall inside booth 284. Picture by Himadri Mondal

A CRPF jawan fired a round in the air inside a polling booth during a commotion between central troopers and voters over the seizure of cellphones from voters at Dubrajpur on Monday morning.

A central trooper fired in the air outside another booth during a scuffle between two groups of voters in Parui on Monday.

Both the incidents occurred under the Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency.

The CRPF trooper fired in the air inside booth 284 at Kandighi Primary School. Sources said four CRPF personnel had been deployed at the booth.

Around 11.15am, a jawan asked voter Ananda Das not to enter the booth with a mobile phone. Other voters in the queue alleged that the central troopers were snatching mobile phones from them and throwing the same on the floor after the polling started.

“The CRPF jawans had seized my mobile phone and those of my two friends and were unwilling to return them after we cast votes. When others protested, a jawan went inside the booth and fired a round. I fell ill as the shot was fired so close to me,” said Das. ‘

The bullet hit the ceiling and a portion of plaster was dislodged.

Sources said some of the voters had hurled brickbats at the security personnel.

A woman also fell ill in the melee and was admitted to Suri district hospital, along with Das.

A jawan, however, claimed that the main priority of the central troopers was to save the EVM and one of them had fired in the air to disperse a mob that had tried to enter the booth.

The voting was suspended for 90 minutes following the firing.

Birbhum district magistrate Moumita Godara Basu said: “We have sent a report to the Election Commission on the incident.”

In the second incident, central force personnel fired in the air when they were allegedly attacked with brickbats outside booth 280 at Talibpur Primary School.

A quarrel broke out between two groups of voters over standing in the queue around 10am. When the jawans intervened, an altercation broke out between the voters and the troopers. The security personnel allegedly resorted to a baton charge and in retaliation, some voters hurled brickbats at them. One of the jawans fired a round in the air to disperse the crowd.

The Election Commission has asked the Birbhum administration to lodged FIRs in both the firing incidents.

Birbhum superintendent of police, Avvaru Ravindranath, said: “As per the direction of EC, FIRs have been lodged in both the cases.”

The Dubrajpur firing prompted chief minister Mamata Banerjee to attack the central forces.

“Central force opened fire inside a polling booth. How dare they? Law and order is a state subject. The CRPF or any other force will stand outside the booth. But they have no right to open fire or resort to lathicharge,” she said at a campaign rally in Swarupnagar.

Trinamul spokesperson Derek O’Brien lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against the firing at booth 284.