Post-poll violence

Violence after victory

Print edition : March 30, 2018

A statue of Vladimir Lenin being brought down in Belonia town. Photo: Courtesy: Daily Desher Katha

A scene of post-poll violence in Tripura. Photo: Courtesy: Daily Desher Katha

A scene of violence in the State. Photo: Courtesy: Daliy Desher Katha

AMID shrieks of delight and chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai, alleged members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced their ascension to power in Tripura by pulling down a statue of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, in Belonia town. It was more than a simple act of vandalism by alleged goons of a party that had just come to power in a State; it was a proud proclamation of intolerance of any ideology or belief that opposed theirs.

State and Central BJP leaders have tried to downplay the incident by claiming that it was a reaction of the people who were celebrating the defeat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front. “What one democratically elected government can do, another democratically elected government can undo,” tweeted Governor of Tripura Tathagata Roy, who was a senior BJP leader. Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir went a step further and almost justified the crime, saying: “We condemn all kinds of violence and the State government is handling the situation. But I want to make it clear that statues of foreign leaders are not required in India.” After the results of the Assembly election in Tripura were declared on March 3, terror was unleashed by alleged members of the victorious alliance. Supporters and activists of the Left were attacked, their houses burnt down, and party offices were either wrecked or forcibly occupied by miscreants. According to CPI(M) estimates, 5, 514 individuals were injured, 1,539 houses were attacked, 196 houses were set on fire, 134 party offices were attacked and 208 party offices were captured as of March 5, two days after the election results were declared.

CPI(M) leader and vice chairman of the Melaghar Municipal Council, Zakir Hussein, of Sipahijala district, had to flee his home with his wife and two daughters aged nine and two after miscreants burnt it down and attacked his shop. “I lost everything. They destroyed my house and looted my belongings. I am on the run. They keep calling me and threatening to kill me,” Hussein told Frontline. Shyamal Chakraborty, the CPI(M) candidate who won from Sonamura constituency, said that arson and looting were rampant in the region. “Nine CPI(M) offices in Sonamura were wrecked and set on fire, houses have been destroyed, shops looted. From this area alone, 70 families have fled their homes in fear. Hundreds more dare not step out of their houses for fear of attack. These are mostly poor people who cannot even go out to earn their livelihood,” he said. According to him, the BJP is creating an atmosphere of terror so that nobody will dare challenge it later when it is unable to deliver on its election promises. “They are destroying our offices or occupying them so that the CPI(M) cannot reorganise itself,” Chakraborty said.

In the tribal belt under the jurisdiction of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) too, there was widespread violence. Repeated incidents of attack on CPI(M) supporters by members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripara (IPFT), the BJP’s ally, were reported. According to Radhacharan Debbarma, general secretary of the Gana Mukti Parishad and chief executive member of the TTAADC, some 2,000 people from Jampuijala subdivision alone had to flee their homes.

There were even cases where those who had voted for the BJP were attacked by rampaging groups. In one such case, Shreyashi Goon of Chandipur narrated on social media how her house was invaded by alleged BJP vandals. “We kept telling them that we voted for the BJP and had no truck with the CPI(M), but they would not listen. Is this what we voted for? Is this their idea of development? We were warned that the BJP will bring g oondagiri in the State, but we did not believe it then,” she said in a video message on a social media site.

A delegation of the CPI(M) and other Left Party members of Parliament submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi detailing major incidents of such attacks. At a press conference in Kolkata CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “This is the actual character of the RSS. It has never in its entire existence expanded its mass base or its social influence without resorting to political violence.”

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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