Congress poser after post-poll violence in Tripura: Should democracy only exist in Central India?

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Lalit Shastri

AICC Press briefing by Pawan Khera, and Pradyot Deb Barman on poll violence in Tripura

After post-poll violence and arson that left in its wake three persons dead and at least a hundred others injured in Tripura, the Congress party has come into the open and is questioning the state of democracy in the North-East.

The Congress is saying that those who did not vote for the BJP were being attacked.

Violence erupted in Tripura after the two BJP candidates – Rebati Tripura and Pratima Bhoumik – were declared elected in the two Lok Sabha constituencies, Tripura East and Tripura West.

After the formation of the first BJP Government in Tripura, headed by Biplab Kumar Deb, there have been efforts to galvanise the ruling party by inducting new members at the grass root level. This has complemented efforts to bring the radicalised tribals into the mainstream. But given the history of insurgency, such outbreak of violence, which is reprehensible and condemnable, cannot be ruled out. There is also a feedback from RSS functionaries involved in electioneering in Tripura that some new entrants in the party were involved in acts of violence.

At the end of the parliamentary election process, the leading opposition Congress party, which had projected its President Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate but has been restricted to only 52 seats, is not serving the cause of democracy when the Congress headquarters becomes the forum to convey the message to the citizens across the county that “democracy exists only in Central India while there is chaos and lawlessness in the border States of North-East.” While raising this issue in the public domain, the Congress party is also drawing a parallel with Jammu and Kashmir.

Jointly addressing media persons at AICC headquearters, along with Pawan Khera, Spokesperson AICC, Pradyot Deb Barman, President Tripura State Congress unit, Tuesday 28 May 2019, drew attention to post-poll violence in Tripura when he stated he was very upset as he went on to ask: “Should democracy only exist in Central India or main land India and not in bordering state, in the regional areas?

Barman seems to forget that in the ’80s when Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv, were Prime Minister, Tripura, which has an international land boundary with Bangladesh for about 856 Km, was continuously on the boil. How can he sweep under the carpet how the Bengalis of Mandwi village, near Agartala, were butchered by tribal insurgents in June 1980.

Presently two militant groups namely NLFT and ATTF are operating in the state. They are equipped with sophisticated weapons and have the expertise and training in explosive handling largely due to their link with ISI. Some fundamentalist elements of Bangladesh who are opposed to Indo-Bangladesh friendship tie are also providing logistic support to the outfits. The Chittagong Hill-Tracts is the haven and training grounds for militants of the North-Eastern region including Tripura. Tripura militants continue to operate from the soil of Bangladesh with the active support from the anti-Indian forces backed by the ISI.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), which is designated as a terrorist organisation, was started in 1989. In November that year, Rajiv Gandhi had resigned as prime minister after the Congress Party was defeated in parliamentary elections. NLFT has conducted several dozen armed attacks and its main goal is to liberate Tripura from the union of India. NLFT is now divided into a number of factions.

All Tripura Tiger Force was initially established as All Tripura Tribal Force on 11th July 1990. Differences had cropped up between the leaders of ATTF on the issue of signing a ‘Memorandum of settlement’ with the Govt of Tripura and surrender of its cadres. While one faction signed the ‘Memorandum of settlement’ on 23 August 1993 and 1633 militants surrendered to the Government, others did not surrender and continued with terrorist activities

There are those who are also questioning the role of the law enforcing agencies when it comes to the failure on the part of the Police to control the post-poll violence in Tripura. A flash back in this context could be an eye-opener for those now in the saddle. During the fag end of the CPI (M) leader Nripen Chakraborty’s 10 year rule as Tripura Chief Minister, violence had been brought under full control and the pressure on the extremist groups also continued during the initial tenure of Sudhir Ranjan Majumdar, who headed a Congress Government between 1988 and 1992. For ensuring peace in Tripura during that period, credit to a large extent goes to the then Director General of Police R P Sharma, a 1958 batch IPS officer borne on the Madhya Pradesh cadre. He was DG Police Tripura from November 1987 till December 1990. He was then appointed as DG Police Madhya Pradesh, the largest State in the country till it was bifurcated in the year 2000 to form the separate Chhattisgarh State.

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