A 12-hour shutdown called by the opposition Congress against a tribal party’s indefinite road and rail blockade demanding separate state for the tribals crippled life in Tripura on Wednesday.
The Congress also accused the central government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “conspiring in Tripura, like in Manipur, to get political and electoral mileage before the early next year’s assembly elections”.
The party also blamed the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for its “failure to govern the state properly”. Police said around 300 activists of Congress were arrested for picketing in front of government offices in different parts of the state.
Most of the government and semi-government as well as private offices, educational institutions, shops and business establishments were closed due to the strike.
Banks and financial institutions were also closed in view of the shutdown, which was also opposed by the CPI-M and BJP.
All vehicles, except those of security forces, went off the roads. The dawn-to-dusk bandh did not affect flights in and out of Agartala. “The shutdown is peaceful,” deputy inspector general of police Arindam Nath told IANS.
“The strike was total, successful and spontaneous,” Tripura Pradesh Congress President Birajit Sinha said. “The BJP, like in Manipur and other non-NDA ruled states, is also conspiring to disturb peace and political stability in Tripura. The BJP, as in other states, is funding the conspirators and parties involved in the political turmoil to gain political mileage,” Sinha added.
He also charged the Left government with “failure to deal with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura’s (IPFT) illegitimate demand for a separate state and blocking the vital national highway and lone railway line”.
“BJP-led central government remained completely inactive while a tribal party stopped plying of vehicles through a crucial national highway and obstructed solitary railway line. Both the highway and the railway line are under the control of central government,” the Congress leader pointed out.
The BJP Vice-President Subal Bhowmik strongly denied the Congress’ allegations and said the people would suffer due to the shutdown.
The IPFT has been blocking National Highway-8, the lifeline of Tripura, and the lone railway line since July 10, leading to shortage of essential commodities, fuel, food grain and other goods of basic necessity.
A senior Tripura Home Department official said on the request of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked his deputy Kiren Rijiju on Monday to talk to the IPFT leaders.
Rijiju, however, did not talk to the IPFT leaders on Tuesday, instead through his officials, asked the tribal leaders to talk to the Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy about their demand.
IPFT General Secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia and front’s youth wing President Dhananjoy Tripura have been camping in New Delhi since Thursday.
The IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for a separate state, to be carved out, by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), which has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq.km. area, home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals, of the state’s 37-lakh population.
Most political parties, including the ruling CPI-M and the Congress, the BJP, and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura have rejected the IPFT demand, saying it was not practical to divide the already small state.
The IPFT leaders have has also met the Governor Tathagata Roy twice on Tuesday night and demanded tripartite meeting between them, central government and the state government to resolve their issue.
The tribal party’s President Narendra Chandra Debbarma said they will hold a meeting on Wednesday and then decide about the withdrawal of the 10-day long National Highway and lone railway line blockades.