Thousands Robbed of their votes in West Bengal

The first phase of Panchayat elections in West Bengal was marred by widespread booth capturing by the ruling Trinamul Congress and near complete surrender by the security forces to the miscreants. Voting took place in West Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia on July 11.

Continuing the reign of terror, which was going on before the election, TMC gangs roamed freely in the villages, threatening voters not to come out of their houses, particularly in Bankura and West Midnapore. In West Midnapore, booth capturing was rampant in Pingla, Dantan, Gopiballavpur, Shalboni, Nayagram, Chandrakona, Debra, Ghatal, Keshpur, Garbeta.  In many areas, booth capturing started after 1.00 p.m.   79 booths were captured in Ghatal and more than 50 in Debra. In Gopiballavpur, out of the total 98 booths more than 30 were captured. TMC miscreants chased away CPI(M) polling agents from most of these booths and the polling officials were forced into silence under threat. In Pingla, CPI(M) leaders were attacked with sharp weapons and many were injured.

In Bankura, there was no semblance of fair elections in 11 out of 46 seats to the District Council. Thousands of people were denied their voting rights in Indas, Taldangra, Bishnupur, Joypur, Kotulpur, Mejia and Saltora. Booths were captured, particularly after 12 noon. However, in southern parts of the district, mainly tribal areas, people came out in numbers to vote.

In Purulia, there were sporadic incidents of violence. In a major attack, CPI(M) activists were injured in Barabazar. However, people came to vote in this district despite the fearful atmosphere.

The state administration virtually kept aside the central para military forces. They were not deployed in booths. Most of the central security forces were stationed in the block office. Some of them went to main roads but not inside the villages. The state government was opposing the deployment of central forces from the very beginning. Central forces were sent to the state under the direction of the Supreme Court. However, they were kept inactive.

Biman Basu, Left Front Chairman, expressed anguish at the manner in which the voting rights of the people were snatched away. Interacting with the media he said, “Our worst apprehensions have come true. The Chief Minister herself continuously threatened the Election Commission and the opposition. Ministers openly threatened that the opposition parties would not be allowed to operate freely. This has now been implemented in the first phase. Thousands of people were not allowed to vote. Booths were captured. Security forces were forced to remain idle.”

The Left Front has lodged complaints with the district administration and state Election Commission. The Left Front will meet the Election Commission prior to the second phase and will want to know how free and fair elections can take place in this situation.

July 12, 2013