Post poll violence in Tripura has led to shops, houses, rubber plantations being burnt down. Students facing secondary exams are impacted. In an incident in Udaipur, cows and goats of one Prasenjit Sarkar are burnt to death. Party offices are vandalised. And people are being forced to give donations (chanda) for victory celebrations.
This has been the situation of the state after results of Assembly elections for the north-eastern state of Tripura were declared on March 2, where the BJP-led coalition returned to power with 33 seats from 44 of last time. As soon as the results became clear, many parts of the state started to witness incidents of violence. Even after two weeks, violence continues in some places.
The CPM, whose seat share dropped from 16 to 11 this time, has alleged that its supporters are being attacked by BJP miscreants. Congress too has alleged that its party supporters are attacked by the saffron party. The grand old party had a seat sharing arrangement with the CPM-led Left Front this time and because of this, it was able to win three seats. Last time, it had drawn a blank.
A seven-member team of parliamentarians of CPM-Congress-CPI visited the state to investigate the violence, but unfortunately a part of the team was attacked by miscreants in Nehalchandra Nagar in Bishalgarh. The team thus had to shorten its two-day visit. The house of CPM MLA Ramu Das was attacked, and his old mother got injured. The post-poll violence in fact started after the voting, which was largely peaceful, was completed on February 16. On February 19, a CPM supporter was killed and police arrested the BJP panchayat pradhan. Post-poll violence intensified after the results were declared. To be fair, the state had a brutal history of post-poll violence but it has to be said that this was reduced by the start of 2010s.
The BJP supporters too are claiming that they are being attacked. In the hills, where royal scion Pradyot Debbarma’s TIPRA Motha, which won 13 seats, is dominant, there have been allegations that miscreants belonging to Motha are attacking mainly the supporters of the saffron party. In some places, there are allegations against miscreants belonging to CPM-Congress for attacking the supporters of the BJP. On Monday, a saffron party worker injured in the BJP-CPM clash on March 2 succumbed to his injuries. This also raises questions on CPM, which has been very vocal about the post-poll violence in the state.
Undoubtedly the BJP, CPM, TIPRA Motha and Congress cadres are all involved in the violence. Despite top leaders of these parties have cautioned them not to indulge in any anti-democratic act and disturb the peace of the state. As can be seen from the reports of violence, ground workers and supporters don’t often listen to the appeals made by their leaders and do whatever they like. This is a serious issue. The leadership of the political parties has to look into this. They have to put their own house in order first. Why to throw stones at others when your own house is made of glass?
Maintaining the law and order of the state comes under the ruling party. Chief Minister Manik Saha has said that the miscreants will be dealt with irrespective of political colours. However, the sad part is that violence hasn’t stopped. It is continuing. There is fear among common people, particularly in areas where there are incidents of violence.
Since the end of militancy in this north-eastern state by 2007-08, violence has been significantly reduced during the elections. However, hooliganism and attacks on Opposition has become a common trait since the BJP came to power in the state in 2018 for the first time. Local elections starting from rural body to urban body polls were marred by violence and with tons of allegations of rigging. Even the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 weren’t free from violence. As a result, the Election Commission had to re-order polling in 168 booths of West Tripura Lok Sabha seat. And witnessing the violence in this seat, the Commission had to even reschedule the date of polling for the East Tripura Lok Sabha seat.
However, the picture changed a little after the saffron central leadership woke up and finally decided to change the then Chief Minister Biplab Deb with Manik Saha, who was then the party state president and member of Rajya Sabha. Although Saha was known as a Deb loyalist, gradually after assuming the chair, he cultivated his own image. He didn’t support the violence carried out by the miscreants belonging to his own party and he had made it clear several times through his statements. The state held by-elections to four Assembly seats last year and these show a reduction of violence — a significant change of the scenario that the people of the state had become familiar with after the change of power in 2018.
That’s also the reason the central leadership chose Saha again for his clean image with no controversies. But his clean image is under scanner now as the post-poll violence refuses to stop despite his clear message of action against perpetrators. Obviously, with the party returning to power with a thin majority, Saha’s task isn’t easy. There are forces within the party who are working to tarnish his image — the attack on the Left-Congress parliamentary delegation seems to only indicate that. After all, if the law and order isn’t good, the Chief Minister, who holds the Home portfolio, has to take responsibility. No wonder that Saha wasn’t happy with the attack on the parliamentary team and ordered police to take action against the accused persons.
People have the right to vote for their favourite party. This is the democratic right enshrined in the Constitution of the country. But here the people are punished for exercising their right. This is shameful. What is the significance of celebrating 26th January in schools and colleges of the state when the rights clearly enshrined in the Constitution are openly violated through the fire of political violence? This is also an attack on humanity where people are subjected to fear just for voting a candidate or a party they like.
It is time for the Saha-led government to ensure that this anti-democratic post-poll violence is stopped. This type of violence tarnishes the image of Tripura, which is known for high voter turnouts, as elections are viewed as a festival. This time too, the turnout touched 90%.
Unfortunately, the post-poll violence in Tripura isn’t even a topic of discussion in the mainstream discourse of the country — and this a reason of concern for health of democracy. The section which was very vocal during the post-poll violence in West Bengal after the 2021 state polls is silent on the post-poll violence in Tripura. Why there are no prime time debates on post-poll violence in Tripura? Or is the attack on democracy in Tripura not a problem of the country?—INFA