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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

Poll boycott in Malda ends in clash between villagers, police after outsiders cast votes

Since Tuesday morning, residents of Radhakantapur, a village under Mangalpura panchayat in Habibpur block under Malda Uttar constituency announced they would boycott the elections

Soumya De Sarkar Malda Published 09.05.24, 11:59 AM
Women demonstrate at Mangalpura in Habibpur during the Parliament elections on Tuesday as they boycotted the polls on the issue of development.

Women demonstrate at Mangalpura in Habibpur during the Parliament elections on Tuesday as they boycotted the polls on the issue of development. Picture by Soumya De Sarkar

A group of villagers in Malda who had boycotted Tuesday's polls over bad roads and poor development, alleged that the local block administration brought in a couple of “outsiders” and made them cast their votes at the booth late on Tuesday evening.

Irate residents allegedly held the polling team hostage and later attacked the police over the votes cast, as it thwarted their poll boycott plan. Two cops got injured in stone-pelting by villagers. The police retaliated with batons and teargas to disperse the crowd and eventually rescued the polling team and officials of the block administration from the spot. They also conducted raids in the village to nab those involved in the violence.

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Since Tuesday morning, residents of Radhakantapur, a village under Mangalpura panchayat in Habibpur block under Malda Uttar constituency announced they would boycott the elections.

Led by women, the villagers had launched a daylong demonstration, alleging that their demand to construct a road and a bridge stayed unmet for years.

In all, there were around 1,350 voters in booth 122, an ICDS centre in Radhakantapur.

“We continued the demonstration and no one voted. Around 3.30pm, some officials from the block office reached the booth with two women who were outsiders. They cast their votes. As we protested, the BDO assured us that no vote had been polled in the booth and they would show us the EVM to prove their point,” said Jyotsna Mondal, a villager.

After polling time (6pm), as the polling team was wrapping up and sealing the EVM, villagers approached them.

“We asked them to show the EVM to confirm no vote was cast in the booth. They denied showing us the EVM,” Mondal added.

Around 300 angry villagers assembled at the booth and detained the polling team. The team members passed the information to the block, prompting the BDO and other officers to hurry to the spot. They tried to convince the villagers to set the polling team free, but the latter detained them as well.

As a police team reached the spot to rescue the polling team and other officials stuck in the booth, some villagers resorted to brick-batting.

An inspector of police and a woman assistant sub-inspector were injured as they were hit by bricks and stones.

The police resort to lathicharge and burst teargas shells to disperse the mob. While the injured police personnel were taken to hospital, others, including the polling team, were rescued from the village.

Later at night, police started conducting raids in the village to nab the attackers. However, most men of Radhakantapur had left the village to evade arrest, said sources.

The police and the administration have registered separate cases in connection with the incident.

Senior administrative officials of the district, when contacted, said three votes were polled in the booth. “Those are EDC (election duty certificate) votes. People on poll duty can get EDC and vote in any booth. Three such voters have voted in the booth,” said an official.

He added: "Villagers have no legal authority to check an EVM. They should have understood it instead of getting angry."

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