political churn

CPI(M) accuses BJP of violence in Tripura but observers say this is a legacy of the Left

The violence was widespread but officials said it is now under control.

Days after the Bharatiya Janata Party won assembly elections in Tripura, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Tripura accused it of unleashing concerted violence against its workers and vandalising its offices. In a memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, the CPI(M) alleged that 514 of its workers had been injured, with more than 1,500 homes attacked purportedly by BJP supporters. In addition, it claimed 350 of its offices had been ransacked or captured by the newly elected party.

“This is not just an attack on our party,” said CPI(M) leader Jitendra Chaudhury. “This is an attack on our Constitution, our fundamental rights.”

Chaudhury, who is one of the two Lok Sabha members from Tripura, claimed the party’s workers were being “attacked in broad daylight by lethal weapons and petrol bombs”. He alleged the attackers had the tacit support of the BJP’s senior leaders. “There are being instigated, this is an organised attack,” he said.

The parliamentarian said that the jubilant reactions of top BJP leaders to the destruction of a statue of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, or Lenin, by alleged BJP supporters in a town called Belonia in the state’s southern district was testament to the saffron party’s endorsement of violence. “Ram Madhav [the party’s national general secretary] justified the vandalism in a tweet,” he alleged. “They are sowing the seeds of hatred in Tripura.”

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Madhav had written: “People taking down Lenin’s statue … not in Russia; it is in Tripura. ‘Chalo Paltai’”. Chalo Paltai – Let’s change – was the war cry of the BJP’s election campaign in Tripura.

On Tuesday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy, and asked him to ensure peace till the new government took charge. On Monday, Roy had expressed support for the razing of the Lenin statue.

‘We reject these charges’

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesperson in the state, Mrinal Kanti Deb, however, rejected the charges against its leaders and workers. He alleged it was a conspiracy by the CPI(M) to disturb the law and order of the state. “People have changed their colours overnight,” he said. “A lot of Left workers after our victory started identifying themselves as the BJP workers. They are the ones involved in the few sporadic violent activities that may have taken place. But once our government takes charge, all of them will be sent to jail.”

Several people in the state said that violence was quite widespread. “In every village there has been violence,” said a rubber planter from Santirbazar in South Tripura. “This is really disappointing because this is not what I had voted the BJP for. I hope the party’s senior leaders take action. They can’t just say they are not our workers.”

Said an Agartala-based businessman: “Yes, there has been violence, but it only natural. There were a lot of pent-up emotions among people. The Left, after all, had been in power for 25 years.”

Post-poll violence regular fare

Political observers point out that post-poll violence in Tripura is not a new occurrence. “It happened in 2013, in 2008, in 2003, so there’s nothing really new,” said an Agartala-based political analyst. “But it does seem that there has been a quick turnover this time, a lot of low-level Left leaders seem to have changed loyalties. Miscreants understand which side to be on, and as newcomers you have to prove your worth, that’s how it works everywhere.”

Tapas Dey, a veteran Congress leader and former legislator, said the CPI(M) had only itself to blame. “Post-poll violence is a legacy that the Left had left behind,” claimed Dey. “They are doing this hue and cry this time because they are facing the heat. But the truth is they have created this culture.”

Electoral violence is common in Tripura. In the run-up to the state elections, both the CPI(M) and the BJP lost several of their workers in violent clashes that would routinely break out between the two parties.

Government officials, however, said that violence was beginning to taper off, beginning Monday evening. “Things are under control,” said a senior state government official. “There are prohibitory orders in some places but that’s only a preventive measure.”

A top official of the district administration of Sepahijala, one of the two districts where Section 144 was imposed on Sunday, said there had been sporadic clashes. He claimed many of these clashes were “personal” that had been given “political colour”.

“Both parties are involved,” he said on Tuesday evening. “This happens after election results in Tripura and we expect things to be completely normal by tomorrow.”

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