September 26, 2023

Violent Clashes and Destruction of Ballot Boxes Mar West Bengal Panchayat Elections

The state of West Bengal witnessed a day of chaos and bloodshed as it went to the polls for the Panchayat elections. Reports of violent clashes and the destruction of ballot boxes emerged from various parts of the state, overshadowing the democratic process. These incidents occurred under heavy surveillance by central armed forces deployed to maintain law and order.

Tragically, lives were lost in the clashes. Among the casualties were seven members of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), as well as one worker each from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Congress, along with several unidentified individuals. The violence unfolded in different districts, with Murshidabad, Cooch Behar, East Burdwan, Malda, and South 24 Parganas witnessing casualties.

Despite the grim circumstances, voting commenced at 7 am as scheduled. A total of 73,887 seats were up for grabs in the rural areas of the state, with a staggering 5.67 crore people choosing from a pool of 2.06 lakh candidates vying for nearly 928 seats across 22 zilla parishads, 9,730 panchayat samitis, and 63,229 gram panchayat seats. By 1 pm, a voter turnout of 36.66 percent had been recorded.

To ensure the safety of the electoral process, the Ministry of Home Affairs had agreed to deploy an additional 485 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), as well as State Armed Police Forces for the West Bengal panchayat polls. This move added to the 337 companies of CAPF that were initially directed to be deployed, out of which 224 had already arrived in the state. In total, 822 companies of central forces would be present in West Bengal on the day of polling, as mandated by the Calcutta High Court.

Amidst these unsettling developments, videos showcasing the brutality of the violence have gone viral. In one such video shared by journalist Sudhir Mishra, workers are seen engaging in open firing, desperately seeking cover. Another distressing video captures a man fleeing with a ballot box in hand, raising concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.

The violent clashes and destruction of ballot boxes paint a grim picture of the state of affairs during the West Bengal Panchayat elections. It is imperative that the authorities investigate these incidents thoroughly, hold the culprits accountable, and take measures to ensure the safety and security of the electoral process. A peaceful and fair election is crucial for upholding democracy and the will of the people.