New Delhi: Reports of violence unleashed by workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), after the parties’ electoral success on March 3 have come from different parts of the state.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh has contacted the state DGP following the news of violence and asked him to take all steps to maintain law and order till the new government is formed. He also took stock of the situation from the state governor.
While many in the state capital Agartala are complaining of “loud music disturbing students appearing in the board exams” and “blocking of roads” to celebrate the BJP’s huge win in the state inconveniencing the public, most of the reports of violence are said to be directed at the cadres and supporters of the party’s arch-rival, the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
At a press meet held in Agartala on March 5 late evening, CPM spokesperson Bijan Dhar accused the BJP and IPFT “durbitto” (attackers) of causing “massive attack particularly targeting CPM office, party’s leaders, cadres and supporters”.
“Their homes and shops are being attacked and set on fire. As per reports coming to us till 4 pm this evening, as many as 500 CPM cadres have been physically assaulted, 1,539 houses of cadres and supporters have been attacked. In many of these households, students are appearing for exams, this is unimaginable.”
“As many as 196 offices of the party have been attacked, 136 offices have been set on fire, 208 cases have come where the BJP supporters have taken off the party flag and put up their’s. Even within Agartala, our offices in Banamalipur, Ramnagar, G. B. area, etc. have been targeted. We have decided to lodge a formal complaint to the state administration and also plan to give a memorandum to the winning party to stop it. Elections are a part of the constitutional process. A violent attack on opponents after victory is uncalled for.”
Dhar further said: “Some have accused us of attacking BJP cadres in the run-up to the polls. We have denied it but even if it had happened, people have voted us out and sought change. Now in a changed scenario, it has become worse.”
Photos and videos of BJP cadres bringing down a statue of Lenin in Belonia town, situated in South Tripura district, and of arson in Mandwai in West Tripura district are doing the rounds in social media. District police arrested the driver of the JCB, Ashish Pal, who was seen in the video bringing down the statue “illegally” but was later set free as “it was not a non-bailable offence”.
A CPM party leader in Agartala said BJP cadres not only brought down the statue but also “played football with the head of the statue”. He said the statue was put up by the local municipality at the centre of the town’s College Square “after CPM won the 2013 elections and marked the beginning of 21 years of rule in the state”.
According to local news reports quoting Belonia BJP leaders, the statue was brought down due to “people’s anger” as they have nothing to do with “the foreigner”.
On March 4, BJP also held a press meet in Agartala to defend the CPI(M)’s accusation of violence by the party’s cadres. Party’s vice president Subal Bhowmick counter-accused the CPM of attacking 49 cadres of the party, “out of which 17 are in hospital”. On being asked by a reporter about it, CPM’s Dhar said: “These accusations are not true; I ask, where exactly did this happen? Mere accusations will not do.”
During the campaigning for the February 18 elections, cadres of both the parties have been seriously injured, leading to hospitalisation. There have also been reports of violence even before the results were out. During the electioneering, the BJP had accused CPM of “murdering 11 of our cadres”.
Sharing a photo of the BJP workers bringing down the Lenin statue on Twitter on March 5, state governor and former West Bengal state unit chief of the BJP, Tathagata Roy, said, “What one democratically elected government can do, another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa”.
What one democratically elected government can do another democratically elected government can undo. And vice versa https://t.co/Og8S1wjrJs
— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) March 5, 2018
A day earlier, Roy also shared photos of four RSS members “killed by extremists in Tripura many years ago”, adding, “Shall ask the new government to find their names if possible”.
Remembering the four Swayamsevaks kidnapped and killed by extremists in Tripura many years ago. Of them I knew Shyamalda and Sudhamoyda very well. Shall ask the new government to find their remains if possible pic.twitter.com/cvr47nUf5z
— Tathagata Roy (@tathagata2) March 4, 2018
Ram Madhav, the BJP national secretary in-charge of the Northeast, tweeted a photo of the incident, saying: “People taking down Lenin’s statue … not in Russia, it is in Tripura. ‘Chalo Paltai.'” He later deleted the tweet.
Reacting to the BJP cadres bringing down the Lenin statue on Twitter, Dalit leader and MLA from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani asked, “If this news is true, then aside from taking down Lenin’s statue, I hope you will also take down the casteist Manu statue in Rajasthan High Court”.