Four Trinamool Congress workers were killed in a firing by Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) near a polling station in Cooch Behar district on Saturday during the fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly elections. The terrible incident took place in Sitalkuchi constituency. Preliminary reports say that misunderstanding and difference of opinion between the voters and the forces near polling booth no. 126 in Mathabhanga in the constituency led to the shooting. The explanation given by the central force team to the Election Commission was that it had fired in self-defence against the angry and violent crowd. Another report, however, said that the clash was caused by an altercation between the troops and the people who came to the polling booth with a physically challenged person. However, the true nature of the incident is yet to come out for which an impartial and comprehensive investigation is required. But even before that, attempts are being made in many quarters to make the most of the issue by politicising it. The statements from several political centres testify to the same.
West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee described the incident as a 'genocide'. She further alleged that central forces were acting as agents of the BJP and demanded that Home Minister Amit Shah resign taking responsibility for the occurrence. Amit Shah did not lag behind. In the roadshow held at Nadia the very next day after the incident, he kept provoking both Mamata and the Trinamool. The Prime Minister, currently campaigning, also reacted harshly to 'didi'. Meanwhile, the criticisms of the state BJP leaders bordered on hate speech. One of the leaders, Dilip Ghosh, threatened that the incident in Cooch Behar is just the beginning and it would repeat. It is to be noted that these statements are made in election rallies in the presence of central leaders. However, the Election Commission has not issued restraint against these leaders. They are attempting to submerge the issue by postponing the elections in the locality and restraining leaders against visiting the area.
It is uncertain in what sense Mamata used "genocide" to refer to the incident, but as pointed out above, more could be revealed in a comprehensive investigation. All four who were killed being Muslim youth cannot be the sole reason. Though indirect, the minorities there face the threats of a 'genocide.' One of the major campaign promises of the BJP in West Bengal is that the Citizenship Amendment Act would be implemented. Bengal will be one of the most affected regions by inhumane steps like NRC and CAA. There are several historical and geographical reasons to say this. BJP's assumption to power in West Bengal would be, indirectly, a beginning of a 'genocide'. These apprehensions have been repeatedly raised by both the Trinamool Congress and the CPIM-Congress Samyukta Morcha alliance in their campaigns. Mamata could be reiterating the same in the backdrop of the shootings. Either way, her allegations against the central security forces and the Election Commission cannot be dismissed easily. Mamata was herself attacked while returning after filing her nominations in the Nandigram constituency. In spite of being the chief minister with Z+ category security, she was attacked amidst a crowd, and yet the EC did not take action. The decision to conduct the polls in eight phases, which has not happened in any of the other states was criticised by Mamata as the Commission's 'Modi seva'.
Saturday's polls took place in 44 constituencies, including Sitalkuchi where the firing occurred. In the 2016 polls, 39 of the 44 were with the TMC. In the Lok Sabha elections, however, it was reduced to 25. It was the BJP that gained in the other places. This is one of the areas where the BJP has most of their hopes. For Didi, retaining these places is also a matter of the party's survival. Having strong roots for the left, the Samyuktha Morcha is also strong on the campaigning front. Sitalkuchi is witnessing a keen three-cornered contest. . These dynamics could also be one of the reasons for the conflict that happened. No one is behind the other in creating violence and manslaughter for political gains. Beyond that, if this is indeed a 'genocide,' it only means that the days ahead look grim.