ON TUESDAY, the CPM headquarters in the Bishalgarh sub-division of Tripura’s Sepahijala district — a two-storey building with a statue of Rabindranath Tagore in front — was opened under heavy security cover, with police vehicles on all sides.
According to CPM leaders, this office is now a shelter for around 45 party workers, with more trickling in, claiming that they had been assaulted by supporters of the winning BJP-IPFT alliance.
CPM leaders claim this is the only party office that remains functional among the 90 spread across the sub-division, covering the assembly constituencies of Bishalgarh, Kamalasagar and Charilam. Of the 90, they claim, 87 were ransacked, occupied and in some cases, burnt over the last 48 hours after the results were announced. Two of the three offices remaining are shut, they say.
The BJP blames the violence on CPM workers “wearing BJP clothes… to destabilise normalcy”. The police, meanwhile, have imposed prohibitory orders under CrPC section 144 in Bishalgarh.
According to IG (law and order) Tripura, K V Srijesh, Bishalgarh is one of the worst-affected areas alongwith west Tripura and Gomti.
“There were incidents on the nights of March 3 and 4. It is true that CPM offices were attacked. We are registering cases wherever these incidents are taking place. Even yesterday evening, we carried out a lathicharge in Bishalgarh to disperse crowds. We have carried out lathicharges in a number of areas. We imposed CrPC 144 from 8 pm to 6 am last night. Today, it looks like things are improving across Tripura, and the violence has abated,’’ says Srijesh.
At the CPM’s Bishalgarh HQ, a large hall on the first floor has been converted to a sleeping area. Rugs and bedsheets are spread across the floor for cadres to spend the night. The kitchen has been thrown open, with rice and dal being cooked through the day, and served to workers in batches.
One of the “refugees”, Parash Mani Debbarma, says he arrived at dawn after hiding through the night with his wife and youngest daughter in the 0.78-hectare rubber plantation he owns in Ramnagar. They slept on the grass under the tall rubber trees till light, he says, adding that his family has sought refuge with relatives.
“When the results were announced, I contacted some IPFT leaders, anticipating trouble. They told me not to worry. The next night, a mob entered our home at 11 pm and started vandalising it. They set my motorbike on fire. I managed to escape from the back with my wife and daughter,’’ says Debbarma, 47.
The next day, on March 5, Debbarma says BJP leaders in the area “came to our colony and assured us that nothing would happen”. “But that night, another mob arrived and pelted bricks at the houses. This time, I had kept a bag ready, we escaped,’’ he says.
Pointing to a small backpack, he says, “This is my entire life… account books of two banks, the warrantee of my bike, and a permit from the Rubber Board. This permit is my life and my future. This is what I feed my family off. I’m even carrying my ATM card with me, which I never do. My wife said, ‘You have an ATM card, you don’t need anything else, just run’.”
Debbarma has now called his son-in-laws, married to his two elder daughters, for help. “One son-in-law said we cannot run and hide forever. It’s better to just face these goons right now,’’ he says.
Dashrath Debbarma, 43, has travelled from Sobhathakur in Charilam after having been beaten allegedly by IPFT supporters.
“He will be taken to the hospital for treatment. These are just some of our cadres who have managed to get here. There are scores of others who are hiding in the forests and sleeping under the open sky. Their homes have been vandalised and shops gutted. One woman came to me crying, saying her son had opened a new shop just a week ago after having taken a bank loan. The shop has now been burnt to the ground,’’ claims Bhanulal Saha, former finance minister and CPM’s winning MLA from Bishalgarh.
However, the BJP spokesperson in Tripura denies that his party’s workers have been targeting CPM offices.
“Nobody is occupying any CPM office. Rather, these offices, made with government funds, are being rescued by common labourers from the CPM. As far as these post-poll attacks are concerned, the CPM activists are wearing BJP clothes and creating a law-and-order problem in every corner of the state. In fact, our party members are also being attacked by unknown persons. This a traditional CPM-led conspiracy to destabilise normalcy,” claims Tripura BJP spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Deb.
On Monday, the CPM’s Bishalgarh sub-division secretary, Siddiqur Rehman, submitted a memorandum to the SP Sepahijala district, listing 131 cases of alleged assault, arson, looting of houses belonging to CPM workers, and forcible “occupation” of party offices.
At Bishalgarh, The Indian Express came across several locked CPM offices. Some of them have had their boards ripped off and BJP flags planted in front. Many others have been vandalised, their cupboards emptied and contents thrown on the floor, along with portraits of Jyoti Basu and Manik Sarkar.
In the Chelikhala locality, a row of homes belonging to tribal supporters of the CPM was attacked on the night of March 3. “A mob went through the colony using rods and sticks to damage the tin walls and roofs of our homes. Then they cut the electricity lines and smashed the meters. We have been living without electricity since the day of the results,’’ says Majhilata Debbarma, 54, a local resident.