Meanwhile in Tripura

Rahul Sinha


Not content with suppressing all sorts of democratic rights of the opposition, the new BJP-IPFT government of Tripura is now busy in demolishing offices of opposition and trade unions all over the state. This new spate of eviction of opposition and trade unions from their offices started on  May 8. Till 20th of this month, 41 offices of CPI(M) in different subdivisions,  around 20 offices of Congress party, 5 offices of trade unions belonging to CITU and INTUC have been demolished using bulldozers, imposing section 144 to prevent any resistance from people, with heavily armed paramilitary forces giving security to the demolition squad. On May 20th alone, 16 offices of CPI(M) including a portion of the Subdivision committee office at Sabroom was demolished. In Agartala, INTUC had approached a court of law against these evictions and the court had issued an injunction order. But the DM of West Tripura simply denied to even look at the order when he was informed about it. Similarly in Sabroom, the court had issued a notice to the government as CPI(M) approached it. The government sought time from the court to file reply to the notice and before filing the reply, it demolished the party office in a clear case of contempt of the court. The new rulers of Tripura, it seems, have decided to do whatever at their disposal to subvert and suppress all sorts of democratic rights guaranteed under the constitution. Eviction notices are being served to shopkeepers in Pecharthal market in North Tripura and poor people who have been residing in the vicinity of river Howrah without any provision of alternative arrangements for their residence and livelihood.


The previous fortnight had witnessed death of two of the same family. In Laxmipur village of Gandachharra subdivision, Dhalai district Juddharam Reang and his son Salamohan Reang died on May 9th and 11th due to starvation and prolonged fever. It's not an isolated case of that particular village. The entire ADC area and the rural area in general is faced with shortage of food and work. Contrary to the promises of 100 days of employment and 340 rupees of wage under MGNREGA as was mentioned in BJP's vision document, in the last two and half months people have not got a single day of work. Naturally their financial condition is pathetic. Due to incessant rains, rural workers especially tribals who work in other's fields or houses  are also not getting jobs. They are now forced to go deep inside forests in search of bamboo shoots, jackfruits to sell so that some rice can be bought with the money. Pictures of school going children collecting jackfruit have been published in local daily Daily Desher Katha. According to the news published in the paper, Reba Debbarma, Pakhi Debbarma, Tulsi Koloi, Leba Hrankhwal and 600 to 700 families residing in villages like Killabarma, Koloibarri,72barri situated in Barramurra hill range have mortgaged their ration cards to get some money to buy rice, salt and other essential food items to keep the family going. On top of that malaria is creating havoc endangering many more lives.

During the Left Front period, despite all limitations, starvation death was halted.  Regular work through MNREGA, strengthened and well monitored system of public distribution had ensured that nobody slept unfed even in the remotest of tribal villages. But with "Cholo Paltai" (Let's make a change) as the BJP IPFT assumed office, the entire scenario in rural Tripura has changed to worse. In 1960s and upto 1978, before the Left Front government came to office in the state, starvation death, selling of children for a few kgs of rice were a regular phenomena. One is easily reminded of the infamous tweet by the present governor of Tripura "What one democratically elected government can do, another democratically elected government can undo". Indeed, it seems whatever progress Tripura had made during the Left rule, the new rulers are hell-bent on destroying every bit of it.


BJP had promised to give 7 lakh employment and livelihood opportunities to every household in its vision document. But in the last two and half months, not a single government job has been created, nor has any recruitment process started. There is virtually a ban on new recruitments, while the chief minister, as has been reported in the media widely, has advised the youth of the state to stop running behind political parties for government job and instead rear milch cows or open paan shops. But while recruitment in government services is stopped, the CM has been appointing one after another OSDs for him from outside the state. Till date his secretariat has 3 OSDs. They are Sanjay Mishra, Jayraj Pandya (both from outside Tripura) and another officer from state police service.  Another retired IAS from outside the state namely Bijay Chhibber has been appointed as special adviser to the CM. They have been appointed without any interview or formal process of recruitment.  Mishra, a simple graduate in humanites with an honours, will be getting a salary of rupees 75,000 per month. He was seen posting and sharing political tweets in favour of BJP during the Karnataka elections. On May 20, he was seen distributing the copies of the speech of Biplab Deb as president of state BJP in the meeting of NEDA at Guwahati and sharing links of the same in the social media. Questions are naturally being raised as to how someone appointed as a government servant and drawing salary from public exchequer can indulge in direct political campaign? Does it not violate the service conduct rules and invite punitive action against him?

On the other hand, according to reports in the media a very senior IAS, Y Kumar who was working as the secretary, department of food and civil supplies has resigned from his job. It is not clear why Kumar, known  as a very efficient and honest officer, who had earned reputation for his sincerity and integrity, resigned suddenly. But this is not the first time that such an incident has happened.  Former chief secretary of the state, S K Panda who was serving as the head of the state skill development mission too resigned and went back to his home state of Orissa on April 13. He, in a post on Facebook, has categorically stated that he was humiliated by the behaviour of the new CM. It seems its becoming increasingly difficult for efficient and honest officers under this government.


While saffron terror against the CPI(M) and the Left is continuing all over the state, people though slowly are starting to protest against it. In the night of May 16th, BJP goons attacked the house of Suleman Ali, secretary of SFI Kamalpur subdivision committee at Mohanpur village and injured his brother and sister-in-law. But the local women came out of their homes with sticks in resistance. They captured four of the miscreants and handed them over to police. Police however released three of them almost in no time. In the morning of May 17, Suleman Ali had to attend the Subdivision court in connection with an old case. Spotting him there, the BJP goons again assembled in the court premises with an ulterior motive.  But as this information reached the village of Mohanpur, the women in large numbers came out again.  They marched to the court and made it clear that any attack on the SFI leader shall have grave circumstances. They demanded that security should be provided to Suleman Ali and police must take responsibility that no such incident of political violence shall take place in the area in future. They blocked the Kamalpur-Malaya road to press for their demand.  Seeing the determined attitude of these brave mothers and sisters, police too had to step back. The local BJP leaders including state cabinet minister Manoj Deb had to come to the spot and assure that effective steps shall be taken to prevent recurrence of such attacks and Suleman will not be attacked. The magistrate too ordered the police to ensure that he reached to a safe place. Only after this, the women lifted the blockade. In the same night of 16th, a few BJP hoodlums attacked the house of Nirmal Das, a Left supporter and an employee of state electricity corporation. Here too, the local people came out of their houses and built up resistance forcing the miscreants to run away. Compared to the huge numbers, intensity, severe and nefarious nature of the saffron terror going on, these isolated instances of resistance may seem very feeble, inadequate and unorganised.  But these definitely are the silver linings in the overall gloomy picture which assures us that all is not lost and if organised and guided properly these single sparks can turn into Prairie Fire.



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