One person died in poll-related violence, while skirmishes were reported from different districts as polling for panchayat polls was held in Punjab Sunday.
A ballot box was set on fire and a voter was allegedly crushed to death by miscreants under their vehicle at village Lakhmir Ke Hithar in Ferozepur district. In Jalalabad, brother of a candidate allegedly poured acid on a ballot box at village Jhuge Tek Singh. Meanwhile, some unidentified persons opened fire in air at Dina Sahib in Nihal Singh Wala of Moga.
In Ferozepur, a group of 8-9 persons arrived in an SUV and allegedly barged into a polling booth at village Lakhmir Ke Hithar and set a ballot box on fire.
Soon, a clash broke out between two groups- consisting of supporters of both Congress backed candidates. The village had two candidates for sarpanch post and both are backed by Congress.\ Both groups started pelting stones and bricks at each other. Police said that the group of miscreants who had put ballot box on fire were trying to flee when they allegedly crushed a voter Mahinder Singh (60) under their vehicle. He died on the spot. The miscreants also allegedly attacked cops who were on duty. The polling was suspended in the booth which had 264 votes.
Ferozepur SP (Investigation) Baljit Singh said that two FIRs were registered at Mamdot police station — one for murder and another for booth capturing — against eight persons, most of them have been identified and raids are being conducted to arrest them. The FIR in the death of voter Mahinder Singh was registered under the Sections 302 (murder) and 34 (act done by several persons with common intention) of IPC on statement of brother of deceased. The second FIR for booth capturing was registered under the sections 171-F (undue influence or personation at an election), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance), 452 (trespassing), 379-B (snatching), 186 (obstructing public servants in discharge of duty), 148 (rioting) and 149 (unlawful assembly) of IPC and sections 135-A (booth capturing) and 123 (corrupt practices during election) of the Representation of the People Act.
“Most of the accused are from this village only and we will arrest them soon. They crushed Mahinder Singh under their vehicle intentionally. We have booked them for murder,” said SP. The administration also announced compensation of Rs 1 lakh for family of deceased. In another incident, brother of a candidate poured acid in a ballot box at village Jhuge Tek Singh of Jalalabad in district Fazilka. Police said that Balwinder Singh, whose brother Jaswinder Singh was contesting sarpanch polls, allegedly poured acid in ballot box damaging around ten polled votes. He was arrested from the spot and an FIR against him was being registered at Jalalabad Sadar police station till filing of this report. The accused is said to be affiliated with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Some unidentified persons also opened fire in air at Dina Sahib of Nihal Singh Wala in Moga. They came on motorbikes and fled after firing nearly four rounds in the air. SSP Gulneet Singh said that no one was injured in firing but villagers were in panic as polling was ongoing. However, polling was not affected. He added that FIR was registered against unidentified persons at Nihal Singh Wala police station.
Polling was also suspended for over an hour at village Brahm Ke of Kot Ise Khan in Moga following allegations of bogus voting but resumed later. Here, Akali workers alleged that Congress workers were polling bogus votes in favor of their candidate. Meanwhile, high drama was also witnessed at village Kolianwali of Muktsar and voting was suspended for some time after SAD workers alleged that Congress workers were roaming near polling booths and trying to capture booths. SAD Youth Wing Vice President (Malwa zone) Ranjodh Singh Lambi alleged that Congress workers were trying to do bogus voting and capture booths. This is the native village of Dyal Singh Kolianwali, a close aide of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He is currently in jail in a disproportionate assets case. The polling was resumed after some time. Muktsar SSP Manjit Singh said that it was a minor incident and polling was peaceful in entire district. He said that there was a skirmish between two polling agents and was sorted out.
In Ludhiana, names of several panch candidates were found missing and jumbled up in wards of Roop Nagar (near Dhandra) and they demanded re-polling. Rani Devi who was a panch candidate from ward number 4 but her name was printed in ballot papers for ward number-1. Ajay Brar who was panch candidate from ward number-1 found his name in ballot papers for ward number-4 which was reserved for women. Anita Devi, who was candidate from ward number-4 had her name in ballot papers of ward number-2 and D K Mishra who was candidate from ward number-7 was wrongly placed in ward number-4 too. Two other panch candidates – Seetli and Gulinia also claimed that their names were missing in the ballot papers. All of them demanded re-poll.
Tension also prevailed in village Bulepur of Khanna in district Ludhiana where Akalis alleged that police illegally came to detain Youth Akali Dal (YAD) Yadwinder Singh Yadu. Akali Dal workers and other villagers raised slogans against local Congress MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli who is brother of Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu. As per results declared in evening, Gurmeet Singh, sarpanch candidate backed by SAD won the polls from Bulepur defeating Congress candidate by a thin margin of 17 votes only.
In village Jhande of Bathinda, a sarpanch candidate affiliated with Congress allegedly ‘swallowed’ seven paper ballots. In village Detwal of Mullanpur Dakha in Ludhiana, some masked men allegedly barged into polling booth numbers 102 and 103 at government high school. They allegedly pelted stones, opened fire in air and then polled some bogus votes in favor of Bhajan Singh, sarpanch candidate affiliated with Congress. Police reached spot but accused managed to flee before that.
Lakhvir Singh, a SAD-backed candidate, alleged that masked men captured booth and polled votes in favor of Bhajan Singh. He also alleged that they opened fire in air to frighten voters. Voting was suspended after the incident. Ludhiana Rural DSP (Investigation) Amandeep Singh said that case is being probed. He said that reports of firing were still unconfirmed.