The opposition Congress in Tripura on Saturday threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if the Left Front government does not intervene to stop the road and rail blockade by a tribal party that has led to shortage of essential items in the state as it entered the sixth day.
A 12-member Congress delegation led by former Minister Laxmi Nag on Saturday met the state police chief Akhil Kumar Shukla and told him that if the blockade continues, they would organise state-wide agitations to restore normalcy in the interest of the people.
“For the past six days the IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) leaders and members are blockading the vital national highway and the lone railway line causing serious distress to the people. The Left government has remained a silent spectator,” Nag told the media after meeting the Director General of police.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has told the IPFT leaders that if the party is voted to power in the 2018 assembly elections in Tripura, it would create a ‘Tribal Autonomous State Council’ to give more autonomy to tribal areas.
“The BJP, if voted to power, will replace the TTAADC by a state council through which tribal people can get more benefit in real terms,” the saffron party’s tribal wing leader Jishnu Debbarma told the media.
Opposing the BJP’s proposal, the ruling CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) state secretary Bijan Dhar said there is no provision of ‘Autonomous State Council’ in the Constitution.
“The BJP is behind the road and rail blockade agitation to get political mileage before the assembly elections. The party is trying to fool the tribals by proposing a vague offer,” Dhar told reporters.
However, the BJP leaders denied the CPI-M’s accusation.
The six-day long blockade of National Highway-8, the life line of Tripura, and rail blockade, called by the IPFT to push their separate state demand, has worsened the severe crisis of essentials even as the agitators vowed to continue the stir.
The tribal party’s General Secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia and its youth wing President Dhananjoy Tripura are in New Delhi since Thursday to meet with central ministers and officials.
“We have met senior Home Ministry officials and expect to meet Union Minister of State Kiren Rijiju on Monday or Tuesday,” Jamatia told IANS over phone from Delhi.
“The road and rail blockade would continue until we get a clear-cut promise from the central government,” the tribal leader said.
According to IPFT President Narendra Chandra Debbarma, in Agartala at least 17 persons, including women, have fallen sick at the blockade site.
The indefinite blockade has caused a crisis in supply of essentials, food grains, fuel, basic goods and other items in the markets of Tripura. The bordering northeastern state mostly depends on the northern and south Indian states for food grains, fish, essentials and other basic items.
The IPFT has sought the Governor’s intervention and a tri-partite meeting between them, the Centre and state government to resolve the matter.
The IPFT since 2009 has been agitating for a separate state carved out by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas.A
The politically important TTAADC constitutes two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area, which has 12,16,465 (mostly tribals) of the state’s 37 lakh population residing in it.
The Left Front government led by Manik Sarkar, which is strongly opposed to both the demand and the stir, has taken unprecedented security measures in and around the Baramura hill ranges, through which the NH-8 and the lone railway line passes.
INPT President and former extremist leader Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl said that Tripura is the “Twipraland” and tribals are living here for decades and there is no need to split the state.
“To protect the interest of the tribals, TTAADC can be more powerful with the increase of financial support, promulgation of inner line permit for the outsiders, more land rights to the tribals and all-round development of the council areas,” Hrangkhawl said.