As 2018 State Election Approaches, Rift Between SFI and ABVP Turns Violent in Tripura

The Students’ Federation of India has alleged that Nabarun Deb and his family were brutally attacked by ABVP activists over what they say is a false charge.

New Delhi: The political battle between the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and a fledgling Bharatiya Janata Party has been intensifying in Tripura as the shadow of the 2018 assembly elections looms large. Tensions are quickly spilling over to the student fronts of both parties.

Violent clashes between activists from each of the two groups have reportedly been increasing for the last two years. The latest such incident occurred on May 2. The CPI(M)’s student’s wing, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) has alleged that its state secretary Nabarun Deb and his family were brutally attacked by ABVP activists.

SFI general secretary Vikram Singh, in a press statement condemning the attack, said, “Comrade Nabaruna and his family were attacked by a group of BJP cadres three times – first these hooligans attacked Nabarun Deb’s house when he was not in his house. Then, in an inhuman way, they physically abused and threatened his old parents. After this incident, these hooligans attacked Nabarun Deb’s uncle’s house and threw a bomb there. At midnight when comrade Nabarun Deb was coming back after registering FIR against these antisocial elements of the saffron family, they again attacked the comrade with weapons. It was with the resistance of local people that they were forced to escape.”

Deb suffered multiple injuries in the attack. Speaking to The Wire, Deb said that the attack was pre-planned by saffron party activists. He said that they unnecessarily dragged a small argument into a full-fledged fight.

Nabarun Deb was assaulted by ABVP activists. Credit: Special Arrangement

“I was returning home on a bike in the afternoon, on May 2, when, on my way, I saw an ABVP activist Sushanta Chandra Bhowmick manhandling an acquaintance, Narayan Biswas, over one of their personal matters. Biswas sought help, so I intervened but that did not lead to any fight. I left after a few minutes,” Deb said.

“But soon after the incident,” Deb added, “I heard that ABVP and some BJP activists had blocked an arterial road of Agartala and demanded my arrest. They wrongly alleged that I had beaten up Bhowmick.”

Some BJP leaders filed an FIR against Deb that afternoon, even as Bhowmick went underground after the incident. By evening, the ABVP organised a rally to demand Deb’s arrest.

The saffron groups reportedly brought the protest rally to Deb’s house, where their activists assaulted his mother and uncle.

“Upon hearing this, I decided to rush back home. My friends prevented me but I had no option because my mother was all alone,” Deb said.

As Deb reached home, he was assaulted. He said they blew a crude bomb in front of his house, which led to chaos. When people around his house started coming out in protest against the saffron groups, they fled the scene.

Meanwhile Sushanta Bhowmick – who the ABVP activists said was severely injured – is missing.

On the same day, two more clashes between SFI and ABVP in Dhalai and Teliamura districts of the state had left many injured.

Political analysts in the state said the clashes are a result of the political churning in Tripura. The BJP has been strongly asserting itself in the state whereas the CPI(M) is vying for yet another term in the state.

In the November 2016 by-poll for the Khowai and Barjala assembly seats, BJP registered an unprecedented electoral presence in the state. It got around 35% of the total votes, as opposed to less than 1% in the previous elections. However, the CPI(M) secured victories in both seats with a 45% vote share.

The Congress was pushed to a distant third, capturing only 3% of the vote share – a decline of more than 40% for the grand-old party.

It comes as no surprise that the respective party leaders traded charges after a series of violent political clashes gripped the state.

BJP’s state secretary Pratima Bhowmik alleged that 16 of its activists sustained injuries in the clashes. “The ruling CPI(M) has become frightened to see the growth of BJP in the state. Without dealing with the BJP politically, the Left party launched violent attacks against the opposition party workers and leaders,” Bhowmik was quoted as saying.

Similarly, state secretary of CPI(M) Bijan Dhar told the media, “BJP has been trying to create lawlessness in Tripura. Levelling false allegations, they attacked our people and injured them. To get political mileage ahead of next year’s assembly elections, the BJP members, led by their leaders, are fomenting anarchy in peaceful Tripura. Using anti-social elements, BJP has been fuelling political violence.”

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