NEARLY A week since the violent clashes of August 23 between a section of tribal and non-tribal people, an underlying tension can still be felt, as tribal faces remain absent on the streets and classrooms of state capital Agartala.
Prohibitory orders were lifted over the weekend.
Tribal parties, particularly those not associated the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) that was reportedly at the forefront of last week’s violence, have threatened to launch a movement if the state’s Left Front government fails to bring back tribal workers and students.
On Monday, tribal hostels in Agartala remained empty, and leaders of Opposition parties said most students from tribal communities in institutions such as MBB University, BBM College, Pragati Vidya Bhawan and Umakanta Academy who returned home following the clashes are yet to return.
A teacher at MBB, a new university in Agartala, said on condition of anonymity, “The problem isn’t one of (actual) safety — it is the perception about a lack of safety. It is otherwise safe (in Agartala), but there is a definite tension and some news reports have fuelled this. As parties try to gain maximum mileage from the violence, people in many tribal families feel their children will be safer home (in areas) where they are in a majority.”
“The government has failed in its duty to protect the tribal population in Agartala,” Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) president Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal alleged. “I have spoken with several headmasters and school teachers and they said students are afraid of returning (to Agartala). Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is trying to hide the government’s failures by ordering a magisterial inquiry. There should be a CBI probe.”
Calling the August 23 flare-up — allegedly between IPFT supporters and primarily Bengali-speaking residents of Agartala, said to be CPM supporters — a “conspiracy” to “destabilise” the state, Sarkar had said on Sunday, “Our state has made major strides in economic development — today there is no starvation death, no ethnic violence, no displacement, no insurgency. But there is a conscious attempt to create fresh trouble in this peaceful landscape.”
While people from tribal communities constitute around 30 per cent of Tripura’s population, Agartala has an overwhelming Bengali majority of nearly 96 per cent. Over the years, anti-Left parties with a tribal base have raised this issue time and again. They complain that while Agartala has the state’s best hospital and the only central university, among other amenities, most tribal people from other districts cannot avail of these due to inadequate connectivity between Agartala and rest of the state.
That grouse was answered partly on July 31, as the landlocked state got its first train link with Delhi — the Tripura Sundari Express. The broad-gauge also connects Agartala with Ambassa, the district headquarters of Dhalai, which has a sizeable tribal population.