State letter on central force ‘excesses’

Atri Bhattacharya, the home secretary, urged EC to sensitise the paramilitary personnel

  • Published 15.05.19, 2:21 AM
  • Updated 15.05.19, 2:21 AM
  • 2 mins read
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"There were reports of CAPF personnel behaving roughly with voters in queue and in fact lathi charging them without apparent justification,” the letter reads A file Telegraph picture

The Bengal home secretary has written to the state chief electoral officer, alleging that central forces behaved roughly with voters at booths and resorted to baton charges without apparent justifications during the earlier phases of the Lok Sabha polls.

Atri Bhattacharya, the home secretary, urged the Election Commission of India to sensitise the paramilitary personnel to the needs of voters so that the forces could avoid the use of physical force during the seventh and final phase of voting in the state on May 19.

“You will be aware of the incidents of firing by CAPF (central armed police force) during the polls on May 12. There were five such incidents (at Gopiballavpur, Bishnupur, Moyna, Bhagabanpur and Sabong). In addition, there were reports of CAPF personnel behaving roughly with voters in queue and in fact lathi charging them without apparent justification,” the letter reads.

This is the first time that the state government has officially taken up with the poll panel the alleged excesses by the central forces, though the chief minister repeatedly accused the paramilitary personnel of exceeding their brief during the elections.

“Accusations by politicians and an official letter by the government are two different things. If the state has accused the forces of wrongdoing, that means, there is enough evidence to support the allegation,” said a senior government official.

The home secretary has mentioned some instances to establish the charges against the paramilitary personnel.

“Available reports indicate that during the 4th phase of polls, the CAPF opened fire in Panrui and Dubrajpuir in Birbhum, and also, without clear provocation, beat members of public in places like Thanapara and Haringhata in Nadia district. During the 4th phase in Karimpur in Nadia, personnel of 78th Battalion also chased charged at and beat voters who were standing more than 200 meters from the election booth,” he wrote.

Bhattacharya also said the formation of quick response teams (QRTs) without local police officers was actually not working and urged the ECI to reconsider the decision.

“In some instances, the QRTs could not reach specific locations for more than an hour after request. This was because they did not have knowledge of the locality. They need to have with them local officers who know the locality and the situation, and can communicate with the voters whose democratic rights are to be protected,” letter reads.

Sources in the poll panel said each incident of firing by the central forces was being investigated and nothing had been found against the jawans so far.