The Tripura government has sounded a high alert after a tribal party carried out a series of attacks in different parts of the state since Tuesday in which a 28-year-old journalist was killed, officials said here on Thursday.
Since Tuesday, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) have been promulgated in more than 10 places of west Tripura and Khowai districts, including violence-hit Mandai, 35 km north of here.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar on Thursday held a high level review meeting with top officials of Assam Rifles, Border Security Force, Tripura State Rifles and Tripura Police. The situation was more or less normal in most places on Thursday, a senior official of the state Home Department said.
He said that the Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio, asked Director General of Police Akhil Kumar Shukla to supervise and monitor the situation round-the-clock.
West Tripura District Magistrate Milind Ramteke, his Khowai district counterpart Sandeep Namdeo Mahatme, Inspector General of Police (law and order) K.V. Sreejesh, Deputy Inspector General of police Arindam Nath and West District Police chief Abhijit Saptarshi are controlling the situation in different trouble-prone areas.
According to police, members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribal-based opposition party, intermittently attacked the security forces, houses and burnt down some vehicles the entire day till late Wednesday — fuelling ethnic trouble in mixed populated areas.
“Police resorted to lathicharge and dispersed the mob in Mandai and other places as they assembled there violating the prohibitory orders,” a police officer said.
“The IPFT members brutally killed young journalist Shantanu Bhowmik during the melee. Police later recovered his body and brought it to government-run Govind Ballabh Pant Medical College and Hospital.”
Police officers Sreejesh and Nath narrowly escaped the attacks.
Wednesday’s incident at Mandai was an upshot of Tuesday’s series of violent attacks across the state.
On Tuesday, over 60 members of the ruling CPI-M’s tribal wing Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) were injured in separate attacks allegedly by rival IPFT cadres at 12 places.
The injured also included women and a police officer. Of the 60 injured, 11 TRUGP members were seriously wounded and were admitted to a hospital here.
TRUGP President Jitendra Chowdhury said: “The IPFT members attacked the TRUGP men and women when the latter were coming in vehicles to Agartala from different places in Tripura to attend a party rally here.”
The IPFT cadres also burnt down several buses in which the TRUGP men were travelling, though no one was injured.
Deputy Inspector General of police Arindam Nath said that so far 11 IPFT members have been arrested from separate places for their involvement in the attacks.
The state government has asked various mobile and internet service providers to stop their services in West Tripura and Khowai districts.
A 12-hour shut down, called by the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Thursday to protest the IPFT’s violent attacks crippled life in Jirania sub-division in western Tripura.
Meanwhile, hundreds of journalists on Thursday bid adieu to slain journalist Shantanu Bhowmik at his ancestral home at Jirania in western Tripura.
Earlier, a silent rally of journalists was taken out in the city with the body of the young television journalist who was cremated at Jirania.
Many journalists’ organisations in Agartala, Kolkata, Guwahati and New Delhi vehemently condemned the killing.
The IPFT and the Twipraland State Party since 2009 have been agitating for upgrading the existing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) to a separate tribal state.
TTAADC has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area that is home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals.
The IPFT had blocked National Highway-8, the lifeline of Tripura, and the lone railway line in the state for more than 10 days in July over their separate state demand, causing acute shortage of essential items and hardship to the people.
Almost all major political parties, including the CPI-M-led Left Front, Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and other tribal parties have rejected the demand, saying it is not practical to divide the small state.
Ahead of the assembly elections in Tripura, due in February next year, the separate tribal-based state demand has snowballed into a major political issue. Tribals play a crucial political role in the state with 20 of the 60 assembly seats reserved for them.