In a press conference held in Delhi on Monday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury and four-time ex-Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar demanded immediate intervention of the Centre to end the unprecedented brutal violence against the CPI(M) and other Opposition parties in Tripura, allegedly by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers. They were accompanied by Jitendra Chaudhury, former Lok Sabha Member of Parliament and tribal mass leader from Tripura.
“The reprehensible violence unleashed by the ruling BJP against CPI(M) offices since 28 August has done tremendous damage to the state and its democratic culture and people,” CPI(M) general secretary Yechury said. “We denounce the culture of violence against any party,” he said, adding, “The violence is deliberate, pre-planned, unprecedented and a violation of every principle of the Constitution of India.”
The leaders demanded strict legal action against all rioters visible in and easily identified from the video recordings that have surfaced of the violence. Videos are circulating in the public domain since days and no action has been taken, even against those seen indulging in arson or other forms of aggression. They demanded revocation of cases filed by the state police against members of the CPI(M) and supporters of other Opposition parties and compensation for all those injured or whose properties were damaged or destroyed. They said the targets of the violence, allegedly unleashed by the ruling party, are being penalised instead of the vandals.
“The violence in Tripura is unlike anything seen in the country ever before,” Sarkar said. “The aim of the ruling party is to create a laboratory in Tripura—a laboratory of a one-party, dictatorial and fascistic state, which ultimately will be replicated in other parts of the country. So, this violence is not a problem of Tripura alone. It is a problem for all who believe in peace, democracy and secularism across the country,” he added.
Yechury, Sarkar and Chaudhury shared with the press more video footage of the large-scale violence, which is primarily directed against CPI(M) offices, cadres and supporters. In a number of these recordings, BJP members are apparently seen carrying party flags and unleashing violence against leaders, people and properties of their rivals in Tripura. In a video, apparently of a well-known BJP leader, he tells his supporters to physically attack CPI(M) members.
In just the 48 hours of 7 and 8 September, more than 44 offices of Opposition political parties were attacked, burnt or vandalised across Tripura. Forty-two of these belong to the CPI(M), the main opposition party. Since 2018, when the BJP came to power in Tripura, 21 CPI(M) workers and cadres have allegedly been murdered. From 2018 to 2021, a total of 3,174 houses were destroyed or looted in political violence in the state, according to data collected by the CPI(M). Several mediapersons, TV and newspaper offices and even advocates have been attacked by the goons in recent days. “Whenever these acts of violence have taken place, the aggressors from the ruling party raise ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans,” Yechury told reporters. “This violence is a political act and we will rise to meet it. People cannot be cowed down by such tactics.”
Yechury said that a letter demanding action from the Centre and detailing the nature of the attacks, which he sent to the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) has not been acknowledged. Another letter seeking central intervention to halt the violence, sent three days ago to the office of the President of India Ramnath Kovind, also got no response. He said the silence of the PMO indicates the ruling party sees the ongoing aggression as a strategy to batter Opposition voices in Tripura. “Nothing is possible without the nod of the Centre and the central government. If they do not respond, then we will go to people and tell them what the BJP rule is all about,” he said.
Tripura has been rocked by violence for several days as ruling party men prevent CPI(M) leaders from holding mass demonstrations or public meetings. Sarkar told reporters he was prevented from travelling at least 15 times in the last 42 months of BJP rule. In a recent incident, the police tried to stop Sarkar from visiting Bashpukur in Sepahijala, but party workers ensured he reached the venue on foot.
Other leaders of the CPI(M), including three members of the Legislative Assembly were physically attacked when they tried to visit their constituencies. According to Sarkar, the state government has deployed the police to bar them from visiting any location in or outside Agartala, “They want to isolate us from the people of Tripura, even those who have blessed us with their votes—but it is not going to work. We are going to go to the people, who have realised their mistake in voting for them,” Sarkar said.
Sarkar said there are no longer any human rights protections for the people of the state as the ruling party is going all-out to block any attempt of the CPI(M) and Left parties to mobilise people on burning issues of livelihood. “The reason for the violence is that they made promises, but the implementation of those promises is not even zero but minus zero on the ground. They have cheated everybody in Tripura from the urban and rural poor, the unemployed, to the mothers and sisters, the teachers,” he said.
He said that stopping the CPI(M) from meeting the people is not going to work, since the party has raised democratic demands of people for work, security and livelihood from the very beginning.