Tripura carries a long history of political violence perpetrated and abetted by the Communist cadres with tacit support of the Manik Sarkar government. Thanks to the apathy of the Delhi-centric media, such incidents hardly become a part of mainstream reporting, and, hence hardly a national issue. My recent visit to Tripura was an eye-opener. It offered me a rich insight into the changing dynamics of the state politics, and on the waning fortunes of the CPI(M). With BJP making rapid strides in the state over the past few years, the panic-stricken Manik Sarkar government has turned desperate, unleashing a reign of terror over its political opponents. During the visit, I came across the chilling reality that violence has become a way of life for the CPI(M) cadres in Tripura.
Since 2014, nearly 450 BJP workers have been attacked, three murdered and hundreds of offices and houses of party workers have been burnt or demolished.
It would not be out of place to recount some of the unfortunate victims of the violence. Chand Mohan Tripathi, a tribal BJP leader and an elected member of Dalpati village committee, was brutally killed in December 2016; Rabi Debbarma and Litan Debbarma were beaten to death by CPI(M) goons in Khyerpur; Ariful Islam, the BJP district general secretary, saw his house ransacked and women in the house harassed. In June this year, more than 50 people were injured when a group of CPI(M) supporters in Satmura area tried to stop the BJP workers from putting up party flags. Political violence is the new means to silence opponents and Manik Sarkar’s government is using this ‘Kannur model’ of weapon to perfection.
Manik Sarkar thrives in Delhi media on a well-carved image of being the ‘poorest chief minister of India’, having no house or car in his name and who survives only on his salary—a major part of which he donates to his party.
However, a chiselled image does not ensure good governance. The economy of Tripura is marked by high rate of poverty, low capital formation, inadequate infrastructure facilities, communication bottlenecks, inadequate exploration and use of forest and mineral resources, slow industrialisation and high unemployment.
Rape tops the list of the crimes against women in Tripura. Priyanka Reang, 19, who went out during Durga Puja, was found dead, all naked. The post-mortem report said the cause of the death was an accident. However, no one could explain how a girl’s body could become naked after an accident. Anwara Choudhury, who died under mysterious circumstances in a hospital, was buried without a post-mortem. However, following an outcry and persistent street agitation, her body was exhumed and the post-mortem revealed that she had died of poisoning. The list is endless.
As the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are a shambles in the state, the BJP is taking on Manik Sarkar’s misrule in a vigorous way. With the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, the biggest tribal body in the state, cosying up to the BJP, the CPI(M) has begun to feel the heat as Tripura assembly has 20 seats reserved for the tribal people. For the Bengalis—60 per cent of the remaining non-tribal population—who have been looking for a better option, the BJP is a reliable substitute.
The bottomline is that Manik Sarkar is using violence and fear to perpetuate his unholy rule in Tripura. However, with the political violence falling beyond the optics of the Delhi-obsessed national media, I wonder whether Tripura is on its way to becoming another Kerala.
Lekhi is member of Parliament.