Violent clashes erupted in Assam’s Karimganj district over allegations of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) being carried in a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) candidates’ vehicle. This prompted an angry mob to vandalize the vehicle and pelt stones at the security staff. In a bid to quell the mob violence, police initiated a ‘lathi charge’ and fired five rounds of blanks.
What led to the violence?
Presiding officers of the Indira MV school voting centre in Assam’s Ratabari constituency were on their way back to the strong room, when their vehicle broke down en-route. After failing to establish communications they began to seek help from passing vehicles. Individuals from a vehicle owned by the brother of BJP candidate from Patharkandi, Krishnendu Paul offered to help. The polling officials maintain that they did not have any foreknowledge that the vehicle was a political candidate.
Sahab Uddin Talukdar, an official who was in the vehicle which broke down said, “We are not from Patharkandi. We were returning EVMs when our vehicle broke down. This vehicle offered us help so we agreed to board it to Karimganj. We do not know Krishnendu Paul or his brother.” The vehicle with the EVM was reported to have been intercepted by an enraged mob around three kilometers from Karimganj. Following a heated verbal exchange the mob is said to have proceeded to attack the vehicle with “bamboo poles and sticks.”
Of political violence and social media slugfests…
The video of the mob violence went viral across social media and drew major political reactions. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the Election Commission of India (ECI) of feigning ignorance over such incidents and has called for decisive action by the commission. Rajya Sabha, Member of Parliament (MP) from Assam Ripun Bohra has threatened to boycott the election is the ECI does not act.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev said, “It is shocking that an EVM machine is found in the vehicle which is registered in the name of a BJP candidate of Pathakandi, Krishnendu Paul. How can it be that an EVM is transferred from the polling station where it is kept till counting, in a candidate’s car? I do not think this has happened in the history of Assam.”
On the other side of the political fence, BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called the Congress “sore losers.” He addressed the media saying, “BJP believes in the true development of all. For us secularism doesn’t mean to buy votes. Votes come in return for development”. He went on to say, “People, who in the name of secularism, were looting votes are stopped by voters. So, their frustration is clearly visible,”
The ECI has suspended four polling officials deputed in Assam’s Karimganj district. As of 1 April 2021, 39 assembly seats went to polls in Assam during the second phase. A voter turnout of 73.03% was recorded till 6:00 PM. The final phase of the election will commence from 6 April 2021 and the election results will be declared on 2 May 2021.