Border Security Force (BSF) celebrated its 59th Raising day at North Bengal Frontier headquarters in Siliguri.
At least four political activists were killed and several injured amid widespread violence and arson since panchayat polls started in north Bengal culminating in polling on Saturday.
When two BJP workers were allegedly killed by miscreants backed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Dinhata under the Cooch Behar district, two TMC activists were allegedly killed by Congress-backed workers in Malda and North Dinajpur.
Since morning on the polling day today, several villages were on the boil in the Dinhata Assembly segment. More than 10 persons were injured and some of them sustained bullet injuries in Cooch Behar. One of them succumbed to bullet injuries in Cooch Behar hospital later.
Angry voters, including anti-TMC activists, ransacked at least five polling stations, damaged ballot boxes, set fire on ‘polled’ (rigged) ballots and other papers protesting against booth capturing and rigging in Dinhata and Mathabhanga areas.
A group of miscreants allegedly backed by the TMC snatched ballots from polling officers at gunpoint and rigged votes. Polling officers were allegedly assaulted when they resisted miscreants.
Sources said miscreants collected ballots from presiding officers at gunpoint since midnight and rigged votes in North Bengal. They even sealed ballot boxes in a few polling booths in Cooch Behar and other districts in North Bengal.
Several polling officers complained that one constable and a civic volunteer deployed there were not enough to resist a gang of miscreants. In protest, voters backed by BJP allegedly ransacked polling booths, damaged and burnt ballot boxes in Cooch Behar.
Significantly, BJP workers, including a party candidate, poured water into ballot boxes in some polling booths in protest against booth capturing forcing polling officers to stop the election process.
Hundreds of common voters assembled in front of many polling booths late in the morning demanding re-polling to exercise their democratic rights.
State police and Central forces were found helpless in managing the situation.
The trouble started with a BJP polling agent being shot dead at a polling station in Cooch Behar. A group of miscreants went on the rampage with muskets. Cooch Behar police superintendent had to rush to bring the situation under control.
Widespread violence was reported from the Manikchak area in the Malda district after a clash broke out, by hurling huge crude bombs, between TMC and Congress workers. One TMC worker died at Gopalpur owing to a bomb blast.
A TMC leader was allegedly hacked to death by miscreants belonging to Congress at Chakulia in North Dinajpur.
Police recovered the body of a TMC supporter from a village in Hemtabad, North Dinajpur today.
To save lives, polling officers had to leave polling booths in Islampur under North Dinajpur after a group of miscreants captured booths, rigged votes and sealed ballot boxes.
TMC-backed miscreants allegedly captured dozens of polling booths and rigged votes at Baharal and Debipur under Ratua police station in Malda.
In English Bazar under the Mada district a group of miscreants allegedly captured and rigged votes in many polling stations, located remote area.
Around 4 pm, a TMC candidate himself allegedly brought a ballot box from polling booth to Chanchal police station, as angry voters allegedly tried to damage it.
On the other hand, BJP activists looted ballots in Gangarampur in South Dinajpur. Balurghat MP Sukanta Majumder, who is BJP state president, was prevented by TMC leadership from moving wide area in Gangarampur.
A presiding officer, resident of Siliguri, posted at Goalpokhar in North Dinajpur, was assaulted by a group of miscreants, who broke the door and entered the polling booth. The officer was undergoing treatment in Islampur hospital.
Violence and clashes were reported from Sanyasikata gram panchayat and even Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri. BJP leaders, workers and candidates staged demonstration in front of New Jalpaiguri police station demanding deployment of Central forces to curb alleged TMC’s terror tactic. Having failed to stop rigging, a group of BJP supporters poured water in ballot boxes in the Fulbari area in Jalpaiguri district.
No violence was, however, reported from Darjeeling and Kalimpong Hills, where two tier rural polls were held today after two decades. According to records from Darjeeling District Panchayat Election Officer, voter turnout was recorded 42 per cent at 3 pm today.