The convoy of former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and some senior leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was allegedly attacked in Tripura’s Sipahijala district on Friday, The Indian Express reported. The leaders were on their way back to capital Agartala after a meeting when the incident took place.

“There was a hall meeting of the CPI(M) at the party’s Bishalgarh office from 1.30 pm till 4 pm today [Friday],” said an unidentified police officer. “After the meeting was over, Sarkar and other leaders of the party were on their way back to Agartala when they were reportedly attacked by a few men.”

The police rescued Sarkar, former Finance Minister Bhanulal Saha, former Minority Welfare Minister Sahid Choudhury, Sonamura MLA Shyamal Chakraborty and Kamalasagar MLA Narayan Choudhury and escorted them back to Agartala. Some vehicles in the convoy were damaged and two of Choudhary’s associates also sustained minor injuries, said the official.

The CPI(M) claimed that “BJP-supported hooligans” were behind the attack and described the incident as “undemocratic and fascist”. According to the party’s state office-bearer Rakhal Majumder, Sarkar had joined the meeting in Bishalgarh as the principal orator of the event.

“A group of BJP-supported hooligans gathered outside the hall before the event started. They tried to dissuade participants from joining the event,” said Majumder. “After it got over, they attacked party leaders who were returning home.”

The party has demanded strong action against the “criminals”.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan condemned the attack. “It is shocking to know about the attack on former Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and other senior CPI(M) leaders of Tripura,” he wrote on Facebook. “All democratic minds must rise against the undemocratic and fascist forces who have carried out this attack.”

Tripura Congress Vice-President Tapas De said such incidents proved that the ruling BJP was not ready to give the opposition parties any free space.

Meanwhile, Tripura BJP spokesperson Ashok Sinha said he was not aware of such an incident. “If any such thing has happened, I am sure the government will find out the truth behind it and punish the culprits,” he said. “It is undesired that a veteran leader like Manik Sarkar should face such incidents. Whoever did this, should be punished according to law. This is damaging to democracy.”

On Thursday, at least 28 people including 10 policemen were injured in Belonia in South Tripura in clashes between suspected BJP and CPI(M) workers.