Updated: April 11, 2021 8:08:51 am
THE Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) said its men were forced to open fire near a polling booth in Cooch Behar in West Bengal on Saturday, leading to the death of four, as an attempt was made to snatch their weapons. According to CISF sources, a violent mob tried to disrupt polling in the Sitalkuchi Assembly segment at least twice. It was after the second attempt that CISF personnel fired, leading to the casualties.
The CISF, which said some of its men also suffered injuries, is preparing an incident report to be sent to the Election Commission, which suspended polling at one of the two booths involved in the violence, Booth No. 126. Sources said the CISF will hand over CCTV footage and other electronic evidence to substantiate its claims.
Sources said the first clash happened at around 9.35 am when a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) of the CISF was attacked by a mob of around 50-60 people. The situation was defused. About an hour later, around 150 people came and reportedly attacked a CISF party, forcing it to retaliate.
The first incident occurred after the local police and a CISF QRT under company commander Sunil Kumar spotted people trying to prevent voters from approaching Booth No. 126 for voting. In the commotion, a child fell down, and the angry mob attacked the vehicles carrying the forces. “Around 50-60 people attacked the QRT and police. They broke the windows of our vehicles and some of our jawans sustained injuries. To disperse the crowd, about five-six rounds were fired in the air. A deputy commandant pacified the mob,” a CISF officer said.
In the second incident, a group of about 150 people arrived at Booth No. 186 nearby and allegedly started manhandling the polling staff and beat up some home guards personnel and ASHA workers. The CISF commander in-charge of the booth tried to convince the mob to leave but it forced its way in and beat up the polling staff inside, sources said.
“At that time there were just seven security personnel at the booth, four of them from the CISF. As violence continued, six additional QRT personnel came, apart from some more policemen, from the nearby polling booth. However, the crowd overwhelmed the security forces and, emboldened by their restraint, tried to snatch the weapons of both the CISF men and police,” a senior CISF officer said.
Officials said the CISF first fired two rounds in the air but that later, “sensing imminent danger to their life” fired seven rounds towards the crowd, “Four people are reported to have died due to bullet injuries. An inquiry is on, but a preliminary report suggests the personnel fired in self defence,” the senior officer said.
Sources said the CISF personnel who sustained injuries were given first-aid and later recorded their statement before the election observer.
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