A day after bombs were hurled near Bharatiya Janata Party MP Arjun Singh’s house in North 24 Parganas, director general of CRPF Kuldiep Singh told News18 on Thursday that the “bomb culture” in Bengal is a reality and that forces have been deployed just to ensure such incidents do not happen. Singh, a Bengal cadre officer who took charge as the head of the Central Reserve Police Force on Wednesday, said, “It is not an accusation (that the state has a bomb culture)…These kinds of bombs—petrol, sutli, etc— are manufactured in Bengal during the time of elections for terrorising the public and other things.”
Home minister Amit Shah, in an interview with Network18 in October 2020, had said that there are “bomb-making factories in every district in Bengal”. The statement had sparked much debate and furore. The Trinamool Congress had criticised the remark with its leader Abhishek Banerjee terming it “disgusting poll propaganda” and an attempt to “disturb the social harmony in the state”.
Singh said that the eight-phase elections announced in Bengal this time will give central paramilitary forces a chance to area-dominate, get acclimatised and know the booth-level challenges. “These are anti-social elements who have to be rounded off…area domination, cordon and search operations of ghettos and villages where such elements stay and store bombs…all of that has to be done. Once we seize these materials…likelihood of such incidents during elections would reduce,” Singh said in an exclusive conversation with News18 .
725 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in Bengal this time ahead of the elections. Out of these, 350 to 370 companies will be from CRPF alone.
With just over a week to go for the first phase of the polls, 495 paramilitary companies or close to 50,000 personnel have already been deployed. Officials said that more CRPF companies will be free for deployment in Bengal once the elections in Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala are over.
Talking about the advantage of having so many central forces in a poll-bound state, the DG of CRPF said it would give people the confidence to come out and vote. “This is part of our pre-deployment…it is to raise the confidence of people for voting and persons who can create problems should be rounded off and illegal arms, which they keep in their armouries for use at a later stage…be seized. Those people will be behind bars, those materials will be seized, making elections safer,” he said.
Singh also added that coordination with the state police is not an issue. “Local police is cooperating. Wherever we are being deployed, it is in discussion with state authorities and Election Commission observers. We are carrying out our work in coordination with them,” he said.