Agartala, July 10 (IANS) A Tripura tribal party, demanding a separate state, launched an indefinite blockade of the National Highway and the lone railway line in the north-eastern state on Monday. The move comes after a two-month-long campaign and counter-movement.
Braving rain, thousands of members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribal-based party, blockaded National Highway (NH)-8, the life line of Tripura, and the lone railway line to the state at Khamting Bari in western Tripura since Monday morning.
Tripura’s Left Front government, which is strongly opposed to both the demand and the stir, threw an unprecedented security blanket in and around the Baramura hill ranges, through which the NH-8 and the solitary railway line pass.
Several thousand Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Tripura State Rifles (TSR) and state police personnel have been deployed since Sunday with the top police officials, led by Inspector General of Police (law and order) K.V. Sreejesh, supervising the overall situation.
The IPFT has for the past few years been agitating for the creation of a separate state, carved out by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) area. They have also organised several demonstrations in the national capital and met central ministers highlighting their demand.
“There is no untoward happening so far. The agitators led by their leaders have been peacefully blockading the National Highway and the railway lines to and from Agartala and rest of the country,” Sreejesh told IANS from the blockade area, 35 km north of here.
He said: “The Northeast Frontier Railways, however, cancelled all trains between Agartala and Silchar (in southern Assam). We have taken all possible steps and deployment to foil any untoward incident.”
The tribal party plans to block National Highway-8 and the railway line for an indefinite period to put pressure on the Left Front government before the February 2018 Assembly polls.
“In support of our demand, we would continue to block the National Highway and the railway for an indefinite period until the central government gives a positive assurance towards our demand. A rally would also be organised in Agartala on the same issue on August 23,” IPFT President Narendra Chandra Debbarma told reporters.
He said: “We had a meeting with Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh on May 17 in New Delhi where we discussed our demands. The Minister told us that the government would consider our demands.”
Singh is also Minister of State for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER).
The TTAADC was formed in 1987 under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect and safeguard the political, economic and cultural interests of the tribals.
The politically-important council constitutes two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area and 12,16,465 (mostly tribals) of the state’s 37 lakh population reside in the areas.
The members of the IPFT, which held rallies and protest demonstrations in 29 places under the TTAADC areas to support the demand for a separate Gorkhaland state in West Bengal’s Darjeeling, on Monday also raised slogans in support of Gorkhaland.
Most of the political parties, including the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other tribal-based parties have rejected the demands saying that the issue would create ethnic trouble in the peaceful state.
However, CPI-M State Secretary Bijan Dhar blamed the BJP for the blockade, saying they did a similar thing in Manipur.
“Months before the Manipur Assembly elections, (the) BJP instigated the Naga group to block the state’s vital National Highway to put the then Congress government in an awkward position aiming to dislodge the ruling party from power. Within days of assumption of office by a BJP government in Manipur, the several-months-long road blockade was withdrawn.”
“BJP might be successful in Manipur, but it would not be winning its conspiracy in Tripura to dislodge the Left Front government,” Dhar told reporters, adding that the PMO is “directly involved” in instigating the IPFT to block the roads and railways.
Dhar, also a CPI-M Central Committee member, said that in 1988, the then Congress government at the Centre, headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, hatched a conspiracy in alliance with erstwhile terror outfit Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) and dislodged the then Left Front government headed by Chief Minister Nripen Chakraborty.
“Just ahead of the 1988 Assembly elections, the TNV killed around 100 people and the Congress, led by then central Minister Santosh Mohan Deb, organised massive rigging before forcibly dislodging the then Left Front government.
“But people of Tripura would not allow any kind of conspiracy against the incumbent Left Front government,” the CPI-M leader said.
On the CPI-M linking the PMO and the party to the blockade, BJP state President Biplab Kumar Deb said the Left party is misleading the people by spreading wrong and motivated information.
“Tribals are deprived in Left-ruled Tripura,” he claimed.