Kochi: Political violence during election season is not unheard of, but targetting of eligible voters over their residential status is rare. Such an incident was reported from a polling booth in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat of Ernakulam district during the second round of the civic polls in Kerala. A couple was pushed around and prevented from voting by local cadre of the LDF and UDF on the pretext that they were staying on rent!
Printu N A and his wife Bridgette are still struggling to come to terms with the physical assault they suffered at the hands of LDF and UDF activists on the polling day.
The couple who belong to Wayanad district is still in a state of shock. Their words reflect the horror they experienced on the election day on December 10.
Printu said they have been residing in a rented accommodation in Kizhakkambalam for the past 14 years and this is the first time that they had such a nasty experience. The party workers had taken a stand that those living in rented accommodation will not be allowed to vote.
The LDF and UDF workers at the polling booth said Aadhaar card was not enough for identity proof and insisted on voters ID card. "My shirt was torn by workers inside the polling booth. They broke my wife’s chain and pushed her. Despite pleading and telling them that we are returning without casting our votes, the workers continued kicking us and did not stop the assault," recalled Printu.
As the persons arrested in connection with the assault are prominent political activists, the couple fears for their safety. The threats have not stopped. Following safety concerns, the couple shifted from the rented house at Pattimattom on Monday. They are currently staying in a rented house arranged by Printu's employer Kitex company.
So far 15 people have been arrested in connection with the case. One person is yet to be nabbed. The non-profit organisation Twenty20 has alleged that the arrested persons have been booked under minor sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Twenty 20 chief coordinator Sabu M Jacob alleged that a senior CPM leader had come personally to secure bail for the accused from the police station. He alleged that despite high court order, the police failed to provide the required security for Twenty20 activists.
In the Kummanode ward, CPM independent candidate contested against Twenty20 candidate with the backing of UDF, he said.
Collector submits report
The Ernakulam district collector submitted a detailed report to the State Election Commission on the violence that took place in Kizhakkambalam panchayat on the polling day. The report pointed out that cases were registered under the Kerala Epidemic Ordinance, Panchayat Act and IPC sections against those who prevented people who came to vote.
Earlier the election commission had directed the district administration to submit a detailed report on the incident that took place in Kizhakkambalam.