At least seven people were murdered and dozens more were injured Saturday in India as a result of clashes over local elections in West Bengal, a notoriously violent state during election campaigns.
In recent years, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has endeavoured to acquire a foothold in West Bengal, which has been ruled by a communist party for the majority of its history, in order to expand its influence beyond its Hindi-speaking northern heartlands.
More than 200,000 candidates are vying for municipal leadership positions in a state with 104 million residents, and voters are currently casting their ballots.
“Seven people have been killed and dozens wounded in poll-related violence in different villages across the state,” Jawed Shamim, additional director general of West Bengal’s police force, told AFP.
Five of the deceased were members of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress party, according to a police official who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to communicate with the media.
The other two candidates were affiliated with the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) of West Bengal.
Local broadcasts showed footage of rival party members with batons prowling the streets and ballot boxes being stolen and set ablaze outside polling stations.
Other polling stations were heavily guarded by paramilitary personnel to maintain order.