A day after an eight-year-old boy and his family members were injured in alleged political violence in Chankap Bazaar village in Tripura’s Dhalai district, the Trinamool Congress has approached the Election Commission in New Delhi accusing the ruling BJP of unleashing violence in the run-up to Assembly bypolls.
“Over 70 families joined the AITC (Trinamool Congress) in Surma, Tripura, on June 15 but immediately thereafter, goons of the BJP surrounded these families and unleashed a brutal attack on them using sharp weapons… Even women and children were not spared from this naked violence by the BJP. Moreover, the Tripura state administration and police prevented leaders of the AITC from reaching the spot of the incident and assisting the families,” read a memorandum submitted to the poll panel by a delegation of Trinamool parliamentarians on Thursday afternoon. The team included Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Luizinho Faleiro, Pratima Mondal, Jawhar Sircar and Nusrat Jahan Ruhi.
Police have said their preliminary inquiries revealed that the violence in Chankap Bazaar, which is in the poll-bound Surma constituency, was not politically motivated but was a result of a family feud probably over property. Surma and three other Assembly segments—Jubarajnagar, Agartala and Town Bardowali—are going to the polls on June 23. A senior police official said no case was registered over Wednesday’s violence.
However, the West Bengal-based party said the incident was part of the BJP’s attempt to terrorise voters ahead of the elections. It identified the victims of the violence as Tapash Malakar (8), Braja Ballabh Malakar (55), Dipak Malakar (25) and Abinash Malakar (27).
Speaking to reporters at Ambassa in Dhalai district, state Trinamool president Subal Bhowmik said his party had repeatedly complained to the Election Commission about the police and the civil administration’s alleged inaction on political violence, including three recent murders in Salema, which is near Surma. “A series of incidents occurred here. We repeatedly informed the EC, but they have not taken any plausible step yet,” Bhowmik said.
The party later filed a complaint at the Kachucherra police station about the attack on the Malakar family and also submitted a memorandum to the director-general of police.
The CPM and the Congress, which had earlier alleged clandestine links between the Trinamool and the BJP, criticised the “shocking” and “shameful” assault in Surma.
Congress leader and bypoll candidate Sudip Roy Barman said the BJP had no option but to attack Opposition workers because hooliganism and anti-people policies had driven people away from it.
“Political violence is going on everywhere in Tripura, but I am extremely shocked to hear that an 8-year-old boy was beaten up because his parents joined the Trinamool Congress. If this is the attitude and given the police are inactive in Surma, it is a horrible state of affairs,” he said.
Barman, who was a minister in the Biplab Deb cabinet before quitting the BJP, said the police had been reduced to mute spectators and that democracy was throttled under the saffron party’s rule.
He criticised Chief Minister Manik Saha, who is the home minister as well, for allegedly failing to live up to his assurances of peace and free and fair elections. “This is what is expected from the BJP. We condemn such barbaric acts. Attacking a child for political retribution is a sheer act of cowardice. The CM’s words and actions do not tally with each other”.
CPM state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury said the Surma attack was part of the BJP’s poll strategy, according to which motorcycle-borne goons and hooligans were going to localities and threatening Opposition activists.
“In Surma, members of a poor family were severely assaulted physically, including a child. Not only the Trainamool Congress but all Opposition parties have been facing such assaults for the past four-five days. Minister Manoj Kanti Deb’s supporters are behind these incidents,” Chaudhury said, adding that the BJP had realised it could attract people only through freebies or by threats.
However, the saffron party has rubbished the allegations, saying the Trinamool was not its closest political rival in the Northeast state. “Why would our party workers attack them? The Trinamool is not even our closest rival. There is no question of a fight. Since there is such an allegation, we have investigated and found out that it was the result of property-related feuds within the family. This was not political violence. Such incidents should not happen. I appeal to everyone not to take advantage of the situation,” BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharya said.