EC may order seizure of illegal arms in WB after poll schedule

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New Delhi, Jan 12 (PTI) In the wake of unabated politicalviolence in West Bengal, the Election Commission (EC) islikely to order confiscation of all illegal arms in the stateahead of the assembly elections there.

Sources said once the schedule for the 294-member WestBengal Assembly is announced, the EC may order seizure of allillegal arms and ammunitions to ensure free and fair polls.

Assembly elections in West Bengal are likely to be heldin April-May.

Continous political violence and carrying of illegal armshave become a matter of concern for the government as nearly200 people have already been killed in the violence.

Sources said that under the Arms Act, centralparamilitary forces like CRPF can seize illegal arms at anypoint though the power has not been utilised it.

Last week, Home Minister P Chidambaram had said that hewas "absolutely confident" that peaceful elections would beheld in West Bengal, notwithstanding the ongoing politicalviolence.

The Home Minister said holding of election was theresponsibility of the EC and the central government''sresponsibility was to provide security forces to the EC inorder to hold peaceful elections.

In a letter to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee onDecember 22, Chidambaram had said the killing of activists ofpolitical parties point to a "virtual collapse" of law andorder there. He had also asked what would be the role ofsecurity forces if armed cadres were allowed to operate freelyin the state.

The Home Minister had also asked the state governmentto ensure that the armed cadres belonging to ''harmad vahini''(looters and pirates) are "immediately disarmed anddemobilised".

Chidambaram''s strong letter to Bhattacharjee came afterUPA ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had allegedmisuse of central security forces in the state and offering toquit if her charge was proved wrong.

Bhattacharjee and CPI-M hit back at the Home Minister,accusing him of being "partisan" with a motive to "please"Trinamool Congress and serve its political interests. Healso objected to Chidambaram''s use of the word ''harmad'' sayingit was a "nasty" word.

Later, in another letter Chidambaram invitedBhattacharjee to New Delhi to discuss the issue and agree uponthe way forward.

Bhattacharjee is likely to visit the national capitalbetween January 17 and 19.

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