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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Polling booths that were talking points in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar

All three seats are reserved, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri for SC, Alipurduar for ST

Main Uddin Chisti, Anirban Choudhury Alipurduar, Cooch Behar Published 20.04.24, 09:34 AM
The booth at Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra at Jorpatki in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi, where the CISF had opened fire during the 2021 Assembly elections.

The booth at Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra at Jorpatki in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi, where the CISF had opened fire during the 2021 Assembly elections. Main Uddin Chisti

Three constituencies in north Bengal — Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri — were part of the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections that started across India on Friday. All three seats are reserved, Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri for SC, Alipurduar for ST. The Telegraph visited some booths in these three seats that have assumed importance because of various reasons.

Booth: 5/129 of the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat.

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Location: Amtali MSK (Madhyamik Siksha Kendra), Jotpatki, Sitalkuchi, Cooch Behar.

In focus: For the CISF firing on April 10, 2021, when polling for the Assembly elections was in progress at the booth bearing serial number 5/126 at that time. Allegedly, the central force opened fire as violence erupted in the booth. Four Muslim youths died in the firing.

Friday footage: Since morning, people went to the booth guarded by four CRPF personnel and a state policeman. “There was fear among some voters over the 2021 incident. We gave them confidence and polling was peaceful,” said Keshab Chandra Barman, a local Trinamool leader. In the booth, there are 1,022 voters. Among them, 848 cast their votes, said sources.

Booths: 10/01 and 11/155 of the Alipurduar Lok Sabha seat.

Location: Bhutiabusty and Gangutia forest village primary schools, both in Buxa Tiger Reserve of Alipurduar.

In focus: This is the last time that voters voted in these booths as they will cease to exist. Under the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), voters of these booths, who used to live in the reserve forest area, have been relocated and rehabilitated. From the next election, they will vote in booths in their new addresses.

Friday footage: The administration arranged buses to bring the voters to the booths which are around 30km away from the place of their relocation. The booths were decorated with flowers and balloons. Every voter got chocolates, a drinking water bottle and lunch. There are 76 voters in Bhutiabusty and 305 voters in Gangutia.

After voting, many stayed back for some time for nostalgia's sake.

Booth: 18/176 of Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha seat.

Location: Mohantapara Netaji Primary School, Belakoba, Jalpaiguri.

In focus: During last year’s panchayat election, a group of armed goons had barged into the polling booth. They had looted ballot boxes and set ballot papers on fire. The polling team, along with some voters, had locked the booth from inside and waited till additional police forces reached the spot to rescue the people. Eventually, re-polling was held in the booth.

Friday's footage: Bhalobasa Mondal, an elderly homemaker, one of the voters who had witnessed the attack in 2023, had come to vote on Friday. “There was utter turmoil then," she said, referring to the 2023 rural polls. "Some of us stayed back inside the booth with the polling team. The attackers were shouting at the top of their voices while setting the ballots on fire. It was horrible,” she said.

In contrast, Friday's voting was peaceful, she said. “It is good that we don’t have to vote for the second time. Last year, many of us didn’t vote for the second time (during the re-poll) because of security issues,” said Mondal.

Additional reporting by our Jalpaiguri correspondent

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