Forty-eight hours after three persons were shot during clashes between police and protesters agitating against the Citizenship Amendment Bill at Madhabbari in Khumulwng, locals said that they are now living in fear.
Tight security deployment, comprising of Tripura Police, Tripura State Rifles (TSR), Central Reserve Police Force and Assam Rifles, have been put in place to maintain peace in the area. Speaking to indianexpress.com, Assistant Commandant of 3rd Battalion TSR, TK Biswas, said that no further incident of communal flare-up occurred since Tuesday when fifteen persons including ten policemen and five protesters were injured as cops lathi-charged, burst tear gas shells and finally opened “blank fire” to disperse an unruly mob.
Twipra Students’ Federation (TSF), which is a partner student body of North East Students’ Organization (NESO) in Tripura, had set up blockade at Madhbabari in West Tripura district as part of the North East strike against the bill, which has now been passed in Parliament. However, few hours after the stir started, a section of picketers set some shops ablaze. In order to control the mob, police burst tear gas shells and made “blank fires” to disperse the mob. Three agitators sustained bullet wounds and several others were injured in the police lathicharge.
West Tripura Additional Superintendent of Police, Amitabh Paul said the situation is now under control. He also said that a countrymade rifle was recovered near Madhbabari bridge, close to the spot where Citizenship Bill protesters clashed with police.
The state government has extended the suspension of SMS and mobile internet services for the next 48 hours. Section 144 which was imposed in Madhabbari in the wake of the clashes has also been extended for another two days.
Residents blame administration
Madan Debbarma, a government teacher who has been living at Madhabbari area since last 40 years, told indianexpress.com that he is very unhappy with the role of administration and police. “Administration is supposed to maintain peace and take care of everybody. TSR and police started firing indiscriminately. I saw some people were holding protest here. But there was no reason for police to start firing at them. This is very unbecoming of the administration. We literally fled for our homes with our children to Dinathakur Para, 15 kms away”, Debbarma said. He said he feels anxious due to heavy presence of TSR, CRPF and police personnel in the area.
Budhulaxmi Debbarma, a local woman, alleged her house was damaged by TSR jawans. “We were so afraid. They were simply shooting and the bullets could have hit any of us, hadn’t we run away for our lives”, Debbarma said.
The family of twelve kept hiding in the jungles till evening when there was no more shouts to be heard. “All of us including five children starved throughout the day. If we hadn’t fled, we might as well have been shot”, she said.
Titan Saha, a driver, however, feels safe that police and TSR jawans were maintaining security in the area. “I was away on errand. I came back this morning itself and heard about what happened. The protesters set many shops ablaze and threw brick bats, petrol bombs at the police. I feel safe that policemen are here to maintain security”, said.
Chandana Sarkar has not come out of her home for last 48 hours in fear, fearing that Tuesday’s arson and violence could break out again. “None of the tribal protesters disturbed us on that day. But they burnt down shops, attacked police and we heard policemen retaliated. We heard the gunshots and immediately fled to a nearby locality, 1 Km southwards with our children. There is no television connection, no newspaper has reached us for 2 days. We don’t know anything that’s going on outside”, she said.
Bikash Sarkar, another local, said section 144 was imposed in entire Jirania sub-division by local administration and the restriction is still in force. “I don’t think we can live here in the long run. We have to always live in fear. We might have to shift our home”, he said.
Meanwhile, Tripura Tribal Welfare Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia this morning demanded a judicial enquiry into the Madhabbari clashes. Mevar is also general secretary of Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), which is an ally with BJP in the state government.
When asked if his party would consider disrupting alliance with BJP in the state over Citizenship Amendment Bill issue, Mevar didn’t rule out the possibility and said the decision would be taken by his party.
In a press conference later this evening, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and Revenue Minister NC Debbarma announced a magisterial enquiry into the clashes.
Chief Minister Deb said that the Citizenship Amendment Bill didn’t have anything against the parampara or tradition of Tripura. “During royal regime, the then Maharaja (Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya) looked after proper food, stay of refugees in Tripura. During Independence, the minorities had nothing to do. They went to Pakistan and Bangladesh against their will. What’s their mistake? If they want to come, what’s wrong?” Deb asked.
However, Revenue Minister and IPFT supremo NC Debbarma, who was sitting right beside him during the press conference, chose to stay mum on the issue.
IPFT has protested several times in Tripura and in Jantar Mantar of New Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
But when asked if he agreed with CM Deb on the Citizenship Amendment Bill issue, NC Debbarma said his party has said their political stand. However, as a minister in state government, there is nothing more to say, the veteran tribal ideologue informed.