From poisoning ponds with fisheries belonging to Left supporters, to poisoning milch and pregnant cows – this is the new form of celebrating victory in the Lok Sabha elections in Tripura by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters. Their shrillness and hatred towards fellow human beings and their assets can be gauged from such acts, which also include loot and arson.
Some of the other forms of coercive celebrations being reported from across this North Eastern state are; looting valuables houses, ransacking or looting shops, destruction of crops, cutting down rubber gardens and burning vehicles. There are reports that Left supporters are also being forced to pay ransom even to live in their own houses and sending their children to school. These gory stories about BJP supporters’ celebrations are hardly known to the rest of India, as media reporting has been negligible.
The spate of attacks mounted on the Left parties ever since the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared on May 23, intensified soon after ‘Hira’(acronym given to Tripura chief minister Biplap Deb by Narendra Modi during the Assembly elections) took over on March 3, 2018.
The attackers are not ordinary BJP workers, rather they are paid workers who are assigned to dominate in certain areas where the Left has a strong support base. Most of these youth have been given motorbikes and are known as the ‘bike gang’. These people monitor the activities and movements of Left supporters, say local sources. The idea is to unleash terror in Tripura, they say.
Since March 3, 2018, not a single day has passed without any violent attack on Left leaders, members and supporters allegedly by the bike-ridden ‘terror brigade’ in the state. Former members of Parliament, members of the state Assembly and other elected members of different constitutional bodies belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have reported physical assault. In the past 14 months, seven CPI(M) leaders, members and supporters have been murdered, 700 Left leaders, members, and supporters, including women, were allegedly physically tortured. Many of those attacked and injured are totally immobilised due to grievous injuries.
The BJP’s model of governance in Tripura is aimed at eliminating the Opposition, particularly the Left. Hundreds of offices of CPI(M) and other Opposition parties and those belonging to democratic mass organisations have either been set on fire or vandalised and looted.
In fact, the holding of elections in Tripura has become a farce. In the name of bye-elections to three-tier panchayats and urban local bodies, over 50% seats were vacated using threat and intimidation. In about 96% poll-bound seats, no Opposition party candidate was allowed to file a nomination and in remaining 4% seats, rigging has been alleged.
It is in such a background that elections to the 17th Lok Sabha were held. So rampant was the rigging that even a section of the ruling party supporters could not cast their votes, allege local sources.
The only constituency in the country where re-polling in 10% of the booths was done was Tripura West. This was in view of large-scale rigging in the first phase polling. Polling in Tripura East was deferred to April 23 from the earlier announced April 18, 2019 by the Election Commission. Though the Left had demanded fresh elections, this was rejected by the EC.
Since May 23 (when the celebrations of victory began), CPI(M) reported that 18 of its offices were set on fire, including Gandachhara sub-divisional committee office, 19 party offices were vandalised, including Panisagar sub-divisional committee office. One CPI office was ransacked, four CPI(M) offices were looted, and the CPI(M) district committee office at Ambassa was locked. The party also reported that two democratic mass organisation offices were vandalised and 59 party members and supporters (including counting agents) were physically assaulted. Many fisheries and rubber gardens were damaged and even milching and pregnant cows were reportedly poisoned in Champaknagar.
Not just the opposition parties, even habitations of religious minorities were attacked as a result of which they live in constant fear in areas such as Belonia, Santirbazar, Udaipur, Sonamura, Bishalgarh, Sadar and Jirania sub-divisions.
The ongoing attacks on democratic forces and Opposition parties in BJP-ruled Tripura are a glaring example of what is in the offing in various other places in the country. The manner in which people in the tiny state of Tripura are facing the wrath of politics of hatred, gives a glimpse into what the country in for in the days ahead. This is also a lesson for the those in the Opposition to gear up, unite and counter such an environment of hate and violence.
(With inputs from Haripada Das)
The writer is former Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. The views are personal.