Of lessons in “peace” assessment and Independent games

Falnked by policemen, voters queue up at Ajoynagar Vidyapith in KMC ward no 109.
Flanked by policemen, voters queue up at Ajoynagar Vidyapith in KMC ward no 109.

By bappaditya paul

AJOYNAGAR VIDYAPITH off EM Bypass is one of the many nondescript government schools dotting the southern fringes of Kolkata.

On Saturday, during the KMC polls, the school became the venue for an unusual kind of lesson imparted by a senior police officer to his young subordinate!

Around 10.30 am a police team from Purba Jadavpur police station rushed into Ajoynagar Vidyapith which housed three polling booths (26-28) in KMC’s ward 109. This ward had been in media limelight since Friday evening after the assault on former CPM minister Kanti Ganguly and his son, allegedly by Trinamul Congress hooligans. 

Just about the time the police team moved in, a group of journalists on election beat reached there, albeit coincidentally. A few red plastic chairs and a table were lying broken at the entry to the lane that leads to the school.

The sub-inspector posted there had asked for a reinforcement after a gang of 40 to 50 hooligans on motorcycles raided the school and intimidated voters and agents of opposition parties. The gang had also vandalised the CPM camp office there.

By the time reinforcement arrived, the gang had fled the polling station, leaving the police with no other task but to ask voters to maintain order.

Several voters confirmed the raid, saying that the hooligans even tried to drag out the polling agent of an Independent candidate from booth 26 but was saved by the police.

Women cadres at a Trinamul Congress election camp office at Khanpur near Naktala in south Kolkata.
Women cadres at a Trinamul Congress election camp office at Khanpur near Naktala in south Kolkata.

For an official version, this correspondent approached Mr Amit Kumar Murmu, a Kolkata Police sergeant in charge of Ajoynagar Vidyapith. As the sergeant was narrating what had happened, a senior policeman gestured him to come to him urgently.

“Don’t disclose anything to mediapersons. Whenever a journalist enquires, just tell that the polling is going on peacefully,” the senior officer was overheard telling the sergeant.

This correpondent then turned to the senior officer and found out that he was the additional OC of Purba Jadavpur PS, Mr Milan Kumar Das. He was leading the reinforcement team that had reached the polling station a little while ago and withheld the nub of the instruction he had just given to his junior. 

“Everything is peaceful here; the voting is underway peacefully. I am the additional OC and you should believe my words,” Mr Das said, before leaving the spot with his team that included a Radio Flying Squad.    

This being the scene at Ajoynagar, high number of polling agents of Independent candidates was a remarkable phenomenon in several polling booths all through south Kolkata.

Most booths had one agent each of Trinamul Congress and the CPM and at least four Independent agents, who came in handy whenever there were allegations of false voting. 

“Trinamul has been bringing in fake voters since morning but every time I protest, the Trinamul agent with support from the Independent agents is shouting me down. I am helpless but I am not being allowed to leave the booth,” said Mr Joy Acharjee, a CPM agent at Sammelani Balika Vidyalaya booth in KMC ward 101 at Baghajatin. 

This is was a common scene across the polling booths in south Kolkata.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India.)


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