May 15, 2021
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Bengal Politics Heats Up Over Cooch Behar Firing By CISF

The political tension further increased when ECI banned politicians from visiting Cooch Behar district soon after Mamata had announced her visit to the affected area.

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Bengal Politics Heats Up Over Cooch Behar Firing By CISF
In separate incidents, five people were shot dead in Cooch Behar district during the fourth phase of the Assembly elections on Saturday.
Sandipan Chatterjee/Outlook
Bengal Politics Heats Up Over Cooch Behar Firing By CISF

Politics is heating up in West Bengal following the death of four persons in firing by central paramilitary forces outside a polling station in Sitalkuchi area in the Cooch Behar district on Saturday.

While the Election Commission of India (ECI) had claimed that the CISF personnel opened fire in self-defense after a mob tried to snatch their weapons, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has held Union home minister Amit Shah responsible for the firing and sought his resignation.

The heat further increased in the evening after Mamata Banerjee announced her plan to visit the affected area and the family of the victims on Sunday. Soon after this announcement, the ECI issued a notice barring all politicians from visiting the Cooch Behar district over the next three days.

Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, who recently joined the TMC, criticised the ECI's decision not to allow Mamata Banerjee to visit the area. 

"Election Commission has covered itself with mud by stopping Mamata from going to Cooch behar. After all she is still the CM of Bengal and it is her duty to visit the place of this unfortunate occurrence. We know for certain now that EC is not fair," he wrote in a tweet.

Since the Cooch Behar incident, a political blame-game is going on between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP, with the former accusing the BJP-led Union government of using Central paramilitary forces at its behest, while the BJP has blamed Mamata Banerjee for Saturday's incident, saying her provocations to party supporters urging them to gherao central forces led to this consequence.

The TMC has called for a state-wide protest on Sunday.

The Congress' state unit president, Adhir Chowdhury, too, has called for protests.

Several human rights organisations too have planned protest events in Kolkata and other parts of the state on Sunday, protesting the CISF's move of opening fire on 'unarmed voters'.

As of Saturday, polling for 131 seats has been completed in four phases. The state has 294 Assembly seats.

Some time after the firing, while addressing a rally in north Bengal, prime minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of the four persons but also blamed Mamata Banerjee for the incident.

"Didi, this violence and the tactics of instigating people to attack the security forces and obstructing the polling process will not protect you. You have to go out of power. Didi is asking people to attack and gherao security forces who are here to protect the rights of the people of the state," he said.

Following this statement, Mamata Banerjee alleged that the prime minister gave a clean chit to the central forces.

On Sunday, Mamata Banerjee slammed the ECI and called model code of conduct as "Modi Code of Conduct."

In a tweet, she wrote, "EC should rename MCC as Modi Code of Conduct! BJP can use all its might but NOTHING in this world can stop me from being with my people & sharing their pain. They can restrict me from visiting my brothers & sisters in Cooch Behar for 3 days but I WILL be there on the 4th day!"

After the chain of incidents on Saturday, including the ECI's decision to prevent entry of politicians in Cooch Behar district, the TMC's pitch against poll panel and central forces is only expected to go high, as the party has since February been accusing the ECI of working at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre.

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