Polling marred by incidents of violence in some districtsPolice fire warning shots at some stations to disperse crowds. One person died from bullet wounds while 3, including a policeman, got injured in Bajura.
Incidents of violence were reported from several places across the country during the federal and provincial polls on Sunday.
One person died from bullet injuries after police opened fire at an unruly crowd at Damtha polling station in Triveni Municipality, Bajura. A clash had ensued when one local tried to snatch a ballot box from the polling station.
According to journalist Paras Bikram Shah, who was at the incident site, a bullet fired by the police to control the situation following the clash killed 25-year-old Sanjeev Aidee.
Three people including police constable Krishna Kunwar were injured in the incident. Parshuram Padhyaya and Khadak Aidee were among the injured. The Nepal Army medevaced the injured to Kathmandu.
Following the incident, the locals encircled the polling station and voting was halted.
Bajura, a remote hill district of Sudurpaschim Province, becomes volatile every election. Clashes, vandalism, arson, and chasing voters supporting rival parties away are among the violent activities reported in various parts of the district this election as well.
Election officials and political analysts claim that every election in Bajura is riddled with violent activities as the political parties and their activists attempt to capture booths to rig votes. Dhakaram Paudel, the chief election officer in Bajura, said. “Poll-related violence is often reported in the district as the party cadres attempt to rig the election.”
Genuine voters are disappointed by the repeated incidents of disturbance, says Shubharaj Padhyay, the headmaster at Martadi-based Malika Secondary School. He asserted that the intolerance among the party activists and the desire to win the election at any cost leads to violence every election. “All the major parties are to blame for this. They capture polling booths in their strongholds. The voters of other political ideologies are barred from casting their ballots,” said Padhyay.
In the local level elections held on May 13, over 99 percent votes were cast in Budhiganga Municipality in the district. Other centres had also polled on par with Budhiganga. Bajura had recorded the highest voter turnout in the local elections of 2017 and the district had recorded over 80 percent turnout in the previous House of Representatives and Provincial elections.
However, Bajura Campus chief Suresh Raj Pandit says that all the votes cast in those elections were not genuine.
Pandit attributes the higher voter turnout to ballots cast after capturing the booth. Such activities hamper the democratic exercise of electing representatives who are accountable to the people, he said. This time the situation looks worse, Pandit added.
In Swamikartik Rural Municipality-1 a ballot box caught fire at the polling centre. According to polling officer Ram Kumar Yadav, it was not clear how the box containing proportional ballots for the provincial election caught fire. Polling resumed soon after.
As many as 528 votes were cast at Swamikartik Rural Municipality polling station (A) before the incident. According to the district election office, the polling centre had 840 voters. It is not yet certain how many ballots got damaged.
“Our investigation is underway,” said Yadav. No suspect has been detained so far.
In Rautahat, security personnel fired warning shots at two polling centres following clashes between cadres of two political parties.
Superintendent of Police Bir Bahadur Budha Magar, chief at Rautahat Police Office, said they had opened fire after clashes at Kanakpur and Potiyahi polling stations in Rautahat.
An explosion occurred near a polling station at Sukhbodh Secondary School in Panchthar, some two hours after polling started. Police said no casualties were reported, adding the voting process was disrupted only for around five minutes. An additional security team was mobilised from the headquarters soon after the blast, according to the district police office.
In Morang, an unidentified group detonated an improvised explosive
device (IED) at Debasthal polling centre in Budhiganga Rural Municipality-1 at
around 9:15am. According to Kamal Debi Ghimire, a witness, the IED went off
near the ballot box.
In Bardiya, an explosive device went off near a polling station at Shambhu Sharan Secondary School in Gulariya Municipality-2. Voters panicked after the blast about 20 meters from the polling centre.
In Bajhang, a police officer sustained injuries when security personnel fired warning shots to restore order at Masta Basic School polling centre in Chhabis Pathibhera Rural Municipality-1, Bajhang.
According to the district police office, security personnel fired shots in the air following a clash between CPN-UML and Nepali Congress workers.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Jageshwar Bhandari said a head constable sustained injuries when a bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit him. The identity of the injured police officer is yet to be ascertained.
The clash ensued at the polling centre when a supporter of the ruling alliance tried to flee with a ballot box. Police said the personnel on duty used force to contain the situation.
Police on Sunday arrested cadres of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal for disrupting the vote at three election centres in Aathbiskot Municipality, Rukum (West).
Chief District Officer Paramananda Ghimire said that three members of the Chand-led party were arrested for allegedly tearing ballot papers and vandalising ballot boxes at the polling stations in wards 5, 11 and 13.
Ghimire said that the district coordinator of the Youth Organisation, All Nepal National Independent Students’ Union-Revolutionary central secretariat member Hari Pun and the district assembly coordinator of the party’s student wing Rakesh BK were arrested. Ghimire said voting resumed at the polling stations soon after.
In Taplejung, voting process was halted at the Phulbari polling centre in Aathrai Triveni Rural Municipality after a dispute arose between cadres of the UML and the ruling coalition.
Chief District Officer Mahesh Kumar Pokhrel said there was a dispute after Congress candidate Khagen Singh Hanggam reached the polling centre.
“Polling was stopped at the centre at 3pm,” said Pokhrel. Among the 2,419 voters for the Phulbari centre, around 200 were unable to cast their ballots after the disruption.
Meanwhile, IEDs and suspicious objects were recovered in various places across the country. Nepal Army personnel had defused the devices.
(With inputs from our district correspondents.)