People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 17, 2008
ASSEMBLY POLL IN TRIPURA
Left Front All Set To Return To Power
TRIPURA is going to the polls on February 23 next to constitute its 10th assembly. This election is going to take place in a complicated situation in the country when, on the one hand, the Congress-led UPA government is running the economy along the line dictated by the World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary fund. It is intensifying the crisis in the lives of the ordinary people, the prices of essential commodities are spiralling out of control, the public distribution system stands virtually scrapped, and the policy of downsizing the departments is causing joblessness among the workers and employees, creating extreme disappointment among the jobless. There is also an attempt to make the country a junior partner of US imperialism and this is threatening the country’s unity and sovereignty. Atrocities by imperialist sponsored secessionist militant outfits are also on the rise. On the other hand, the communal BJP is doing its best to rouse passions in order to capture power at the centre.
Bidding farewell to a long princely regime, Tripura joined the Indian Union after the country’s independence, but partition created various complicated problems. While the Tripura became landlocked, surrounded on about all sides by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the streams of refugees pouring in from East Bengal turned the indigenous tribals into a minority, creating an imbalance in the population. Although the Congress party was in power at the centre and in the state for long years since independence, its government did not carry out proper rehabilitation of the refugees while protecting the land rights of the indigenous backward tribals and development of infrastructure including communication system. Instead, the Congress government aggravated the problem by goading the Bengali refugees to capture the land of the tribals.
In Tripura, the Left organised a series of mass movements from the very outset to press for proper rehabilitation of refugees and for the formation of an autonomous district council, economic and cultural development of the tribals, protection of their land rights and their area based community habitations. Other demands were: recognition of mother tongue, employment generation through building of infrastructure like railway extension, development of road and air communication, increase of power generation, rehabilitation of the shifting cultivators and landless, education for all and creation of opportunity for higher education, etc. Though the Congress government repeatedly tried to weaken the mass movement through arrests, repression and persecution by using the police force on the one hand and instigating the fissiparous forces on the other, the ethnic harmony was all the more strengthened through Left-led mass movements. As a result, in the assembly election in 1978, the people gave a massive mandate to the Left Front --- 56 seats in the 60-member assembly --- badly trouncing the Congress in all parts of the state.
The two Left Front governments, formed in 1978 and 1983 with the overwhelming support of the people, put Tripura on the path of development by implementing massive development programmes, decentralising power through the panchayats, Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (ADC) and the municipalities elected by the people. While starvation death was ubiquitous during the Congress regime, the Left Front government put an end to it by introducing the food for work scheme. Tripura was the first in the country to introduce mid-day meal programme for primary school students, and implemented various other programmes for educational advancement. Railway extension went underway and a gas-based power plant was set up.
But the Congress party and the associated vested interests could not stomach their defeat, and started conspiring from the very outset for dislodging the Left Front government by undemocratic means. At that time, the notorious US spy agency --- the CIA ---sponsored the secessionist movement to separate the North East from India under the ‘Operation Brahmaputra Project’. The Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) --- the Congress party’s ally in Tripura --- joined the separatist movement, raising the demand for expulsion of post-partition refugees, calling them ‘foreigners.’ They secretly formed an extremist outfit named the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) with a view to building a secessionist movement among a section of the tribal youth, and sent them to the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Congress party and TUJS conspired to dislodge the Left Front government and carried out a terrible riot in June 1980. Though the people of both communities speedily restored the atmosphere of harmony, the violent extremist attacks and the killing of CPI(M) leaders and activists went on.
Then, in a heinous conspiracy on the eve of the February 1988 assembly elections, Rajiv Gandhi, the then prime minister, use of TNV extremists who butchered 91 innocent women, children and old people just 7 days ahead of election. Bringing allegations against the Left Front government’s chief minister Nripen Chakraborty and deputy chief minister Dasarath Deb as the ‘creator of TNV,’ the Rajiv Gandhi government at the centre unilaterally promulgated the Disturbed Areas Act in entire Tripura, without even informing the state government and sending the army. Thus falsifying the election results through the use of semi-fascist terror, it enabled the Congress-TUJS combine to steal its way to power. Leader of the TNV killers, Bijoy Hrangkhawl, and his extremist organisation were rewarded by Rajiv Gandhi for this ‘feat.’
The five-year Congress-TUJS coalition regime form 1988 to 1992 was the darkest and most terrible phase in the history of Tripura when rule of law was replaced by a jungle raj. The opposition had no freedom of expression, there was no right to live, no safety of the chastity of women. Numerous CPI(M) leaders and activists were killed in a fascist style and the police did not even accept FIRs of numerous incidents of killing and rape. Even while suppressing the information of most of the crimes, the coalition government had to admit in the state assembly that 682 killings and 370 rapes had taken place between February 5, 1988 and December 31, 1991. The crime rate was 36 per minute. Above 200 offices of the CPI(M) and several mass organisations were gutted, ransacked and captured. At Birchandramanu in Belonia, 11 CPI(M) leaders and activists were killed while hoisting the red flag at the party’s local office. Hysteric Congress activists, incited by their leaders, tried to kill 75 CPI(M) leaders and activists including veteran freedom fighter Chitta Chanda, veteran women’s front leader and former parliament member Ila Bhattacharjee, present chief minister Manik Sarkar, and present parliament member Khagen Das. Packets of the CPI(M)’s paper Daily Desher Katha were often torched immediately after reaching bus stands. Government funds were looted unchecked. Due to food scarcity, starvation death stalked the villages, especially in tribal areas, and four people including a pregnant tribal woman were killed in police firing while demanding food. Corruption was rampant in connection with recruitments in government departments and undertakings; ministers themselves sold appointments at a premium to affluent families. All the panchayats, municipalities, cooperatives, and even Students Councils in colleges and the university were dissolved. The opposition’s supporters were debarred from casting their votes in the election to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council by a massive campaign of killing and terror. Atrocities on women reached a stage where young women belonging even to the families of Congress supporters were raped or gangraped.
IN PEOPLE’S LIVES
In 1993, however, the democratic-minded people of Tripura, with the slogan “every vote one’s own vote,” voted with a vengeance and crowned the Left Front with victory, putting an end to the five-year barbaric regime. Though about 400 CPI(M) leaders and activists had been brutally killed by Congress goons, the CPI(M) and Left Front government did not resort to any retaliation. Instead, they involved themselves in reconstruction of the almost decrepit Tripura. But the defeated Congress leaders once again started sponsoring violent extremist attacks to capture power by undemocratically ousting the Left Front government and having the president’s rule promulgated. Violent activities of the two extremist organisations --- National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tigers Force (ATTF) --- shot up, making an implementation of development programmes impossible in tribal areas. About 200 schools were closed. Though unsuccessfully, the Congress made use of extremists in a bid to capture power during the assembly, Lok Sabha, panchayat and ADC elections. In the May 2000 ADC elections, extremists unleashed a massive terror campaign and inducted their political mask --- the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT; former TUJS) into power at gunpoint. Then began a massive loot of the funds of this constitutional body. But, defying threats in the 2003 assembly elections, the tribal and non-tribal people of the state fearlessly foiled their conspiracy and formed the fifth Left Front government.
The third and fourth Left Front governments restored democracy once again, and put Tripura back on the track of development, combating with cooperation from the people the extremist menace as well as Congress instigations to violence. The fifth Left Front government set a singular example of success by strongly combating the extremists and implementing massive and multifarious development programmes over the last five years. This is bringing about a radical change all over the state. Multifarious programmes are on to augment the income of ordinary people, create employment opportunities, expand the opportunities for education from pre-primary to the highest level, increase food production through intensive cultivation, and bring a big section of distressed men and women under the purview of security schemes. There is massive rural development including improvements in drinking water supply, electricity, road communication and housing, civic amenities, infrastructure etc. Implementation of such massive development programmes was made possible through the administration’s successful efforts to create a peaceful atmosphere by sternly combating insurgency, with active assistance from the people. The ceaseless ideological struggle, coupled with administrative endeavour, brought about a thousand misguided militant youth back to the democratic mainstream from the uncertain and disoriented life of the jungle.
The concerted implementation of welfare programmes by the Left Front government, Left led panchayats and Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, with their commitment to the people and their transparency, have made thousands of people in the anti-Left camp rethink. Over 58,000 families have joined the Left Front camp over the period. Such erosion in the opposition parties is going on unabated.
The erosion of its base has, however, not brought about any change in the character of the Congress party that is continually up in arms against the Left Front government’s development programmes. The role of the Congress-led UPA government too is mostly non-cooperative. In many cases, the projects approved by the United Front government for railway extension, road upgradation, air link expansion and augmentation of power generation could not be implemented within the specified time frame due to lack of adequate fund allotments from the UPA government. Yet, the Left Front’s development programme has not come to a stop. Despite financial constraints, the Left Front has secured for Tripura the top most position in the entire North East in respect of rural and urban development by working seriously and sincerely with the people.
IS STILL ON
The Tripura Left Front Committee has appealed to the state people for forming a sixth Left Front government with a more massive mandate. The Left Front has put up in its election manifesto a modest programme calling for an added momentum to the state’s comprehensive development with peace, harmony and stability. The tribals rally on November 18, 2007, workers rally on December 8, women’s rally on December 16, the youth rally on January 6, 2008, and the Left Front’s central election rally on February 3 have surpassed all past records.
But while prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi wax eloquent against insurgency, the Congress party cannot give up its heinous conspiracy to prevent the CPI(M) supporters from exercising their franchise in the inaccessible tribal areas, and to organise attacks on CPI(M) leaders and activists as also on security personnel. It has formed an alliance once again with the INPT, known to be the political mask of the NLFT(BM), an outlawed extremist organisation. The Congress-INPT leaders have been reported to have held secret meetings with extremists over a few months past at several places in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Assam. However, the venue has shifted to certain South Indian towns now due to the flashing of news of such secret meetings in local newspapers. It has also been disclosed that leaders of extremist organisations have been haggling face to face with central leaders of the Congress party.
Above 1500 CPI(M) leaders, activists and supporters have courted martyrdom in Tripura while fighting the extremist and communal elements, the hired henchmen of exploiting classes and of the CIA and ISI. On December 31 last, NLFT(BM) extremists killed Chandramohan Debbarma, an important CPI(M) organiser of Khowai subdivision. CPI(M) activists and supporters have been attacked and kidnapped in tribal areas. CPI(M) supporters were robbed of their photo identity cards by extremists at three places up to February 3, in a bid to deprive them of their franchise.
But the spirited people of Tripura are preparing statewide to return the Left Front to power once again, defying all the conspiracy hatched and the threats being made by the internal and international vested interests.