Katwa, Feb. 25: A part-time college teacher and Congress supporter was shot dead by police here today after a school election snowballed into a full-blown political battle with charges of ballot box snatching and complaints against biased poll managers flying thick and fast.
Congress supporters had been in control of the Chandulia High School managing committee for the past 30 years. Their CPM counterparts allegedly tried to rig the poll to the post of six guardians’ representatives today.
Hundreds of Congress and CPM supporters converged on the school, about 140 km from Calcutta, around 11.30 am. Half an hour later, the Congress supporters alleged that the ballot box had been snatched.
“Our supporters protested the rigging and requested the presiding officer to stop it,” said Rabindranath Chatterjee, the local Congress MLA.
The CPM supporters denied the charge. An altercation snowballed into a clash as presiding officer Haradhan Mondal suspended the polling.
Tuhin Samanta, who lived on the outskirts of Katwa and taught law in a Murshidabad college, apparently requested the police to intervene. The police wielded the baton and Katwa police station officer-in-charge Debjyoti Saha allegedly fired at him point blank.
“CPM supporters were beating us up and the police were being spectators. Suddenly, the OC arrived and ordered a lathicharge. When Tuhin went to save one of our men, the OC pulled out his revolver and shot him,” Congress activist Satyanarayan Sen alleged.
Samanta was declared “brought dead” at the subdivisional hospital.
Inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia confirmed the death in police firing. “One person was killed in the police firing and the Katwa officer-in-charge has been taken off duty,” he said.
A case against the officer was started in the evening. He would be arrested if necessary, Burdwan superintendent of police Peeyush Pandey said.
The Congress has called a 24-hour bandh in Katwa town on Tuesday.
Some 350 guardians were supposed to pick six members for the committee from among 12 candidates today. The elected members would choose the chairman of the panel — which also has a teacher — from among themselves.
CPM district secretary Amal Haldar demanded an “administrative inquiry” and “strong action against the OC”.
As Samanta slumped, Congress workers chased the police with rods and sticks and hurled stones at them. Outnumbered, the OC and his men ran into a classroom, from where a team led by Pandey rescued them five hours later.