The political atmosphere in Tripura seems to be averse for the Opposition parties as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura alliance government is alleged to be involved in massive state-sponsored violence, attacking opposition leaders, especially those belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
On February 23, in broad daylight, the North Tripura District Committee office of CPI(M) was attacked by BJP-supported persona, as alleged by the CPI(M) leaders, who said that several members of the party had got injured.
Earlier, unidentified men set ablaze two CPI(M) local committee offices in a day, one at Badharghat and another at Dhaleshwar and two in Unakoti district.
Witnessing this rampant rise in violent attacks on party workers and offices, a CPI(M) delegation even met the Director General of Police (DGP) and submitted a memorandum giving details of fresh attacks on party workers. The delegation comprised Bijan Dhar, Jitendra Chaudhary, Naraya Kar, Manik Dey and Naresh Jamatia. The memorandum alleged that the police, instead of taking action against the offenders by taking cognizance to the FIRs lodged time to time and various such incidents, instead “connived to rescue and guard all the culprits.”
The law and order situation in this Northeastern state is such that violence against women is rampant.
It was in 2018, when there was a change in guard in Tripura (the Left Front ruled the state for 25 years), and since then the political atmosphere in the state has worsened.
The BJP in its vision document for the Assembly elections in March 2018 made a host promises to lure the people. No doubt, these lucrative promises were one of the major reasons for its electoral success.
However, till date the BJP-IPFT ruled government has not acted upon its promise of implementing the 7th Pay Commission and creating employment. Instead, it is roping in NGOs (non-government organisation) to run the centrally-sponsored mid-day meal scheme in government schools. Besides its poll promises, the state home department seems to be losing grip over law and order in the state.
In an exclusive conversation with the Newsclick, CPI(M) central committee member and the party’s former state secretary, Bijan Dhar, said inner turbulence in the state’s political sphere is rarely discussed and reported in the mainstream media. He blamed this on the ruling BJP’s “fascist attitude in subverting the voice of the Opposition and in particular, of CPI(M) and other Left parties.”
“Since the BJP-IPFT alliance came to power in the state, 13 of our party workers have been hacked to death, there have been numerous cases of vandalism of party offices, physical assault on workers, etc. In 24 months of the new government, there have been only murders, attacks, loot, extortion, destruction of establishments and properties with rise in political killings,” he alleged.
Dhar said recently, two party offices in Narsingarh in Kailasahar of Unakoti district, during the strike in North district, were vandalised. Such incidents are occurring in front of the police but they are silent spectators during these attacks, he said, adding that the total number of incidents were 2,116, out of which 1,917 were related to attacks on men and 199 on women.
“Ruling party goons obstruct local cable operators who telecast reports about our mobilisation efforts. We are on our toes to reach out to people people as BJP goons try to trample on our basic democratic and political rights. We have submitted a memorandum to DGP Rajiv Singh and expect some serious actions,” added Dhar.
Tripura’s law and order situation under the BJP-IPFT government has raised many questions, some of which can be traced to a couple of curious incidents.
Last year, BJP General Secretary Pratima Bhowmik openly threatened SP Kiran Kumar. She did this while undertaking mass rigging during Lok Sabha poll 2019.
This went absolutely unaddressed by the ruling government.
Then, just after the May 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Sudip Roy Burman, the then health minister and ex-Congressman criticised the Tripura government over rising crime in the state. His jibe came after a series of assaults on doctors who were badly beaten up by a mob. He was later sacked from the state cabinet.
In addition to this, due to unprecedented insecurity, the Election Commission had to defer the Lok Sabha polls in Tripura East seat from April 18 to April 23 in 2019, and had to conduct repolling in 168 polling stations. Also, Opposition parties in Tripura alleged they were barred from contesting panchayat elections through the use of muscle power, which resulted in BJP’s victory on 5,652 seats uncontested out of 6,646 seats comprising gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads.
Apart from the Left, the Congress too raised questions on the deteriorating law and order situation in the state and had even demanded deployment of central para-military Assam Rifles in Tripura to restore normalcy. However, Chief Minister Biplab Deb has maintained that law and order is fine in the state.
Allegations from the Opposition benches against the ruling alliance have put Tripura on a new low, as past governments did not face accusations of manhandling and vandalism. The systematic crushing of democratic and political rights in this state indicates a worrisome situation, expressed by veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi, who wrote when the Left Front lost elections: “Tripura ended CPM tedium by trading decency for false Eldorado,”
The writer is an independent journalist and researcher. The views are personal.