People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013



People Determined to Prevent

Return of Dark Days


THE people of Simna in West District of Tripura suffered maximum pain of the over two decade long extremist problem in the state. This region was one of the main corridors for the extremists to enter and return to their base camps in Bangladesh after striking terror in the state. In December 1999 extremists stopped a bus passing through Hejamara towards Khowai and selectively killed 18 non-tribals after separating them from tribal passengers.  Two tribal CPI(M) youth activists, who were on the bus, were also killed when they tried to prevent the massacre.


Since then this road had been closed for traffic and it opened only four years back. No teacher or government official could dare to come here to work. All development activity came to a standstill and tribals, who are a majority here, suffered the most due to the gameplan of extremists to create ethnic divide.


Even as things improved in other parts of the state and extremists started surrendering by accepting the Left Front government's amnesty scheme, things did not improve in Simna for a long time. One of the main reasons for this has been the hold of the dreaded commander of All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) Ranjit Debbarma among sections of tribal youth. Ranjit Debbarma hails from Esrai village near Simna. But he has been operating from Banglaadesh territory and is the main accused in many massacres of hundreds of non-tribals across Tripura. He was caught by Bangaldeshi security forces in December 2012 and handed over to Tripura police. Currently, he is lodged in Agartala Central Jail awaiting trial.


One of the victims of ATTF extremists' atrocities was Pranab Debbarma. He is CPI(M) MLA from Simna constituency continuously since 1993. He is also contesting in the present election seeking fifth consecutive win. We caught up with him in Hejamara town at a CPI(M) election rally. We were keen to know first hand from him about his kidnap by ATTF extremists in January 1997 and his daring escape after 11 months in captivity in Bangladesh.


In his own words: “I worked actively in students movement as a leader of Tribal Students Union. As CPI(M) MLA I had gone on a bicycle on that day to a school in interior tribal area for a meeting. Six ATTF extremists came to the school with AK-56 rifles. They took me and my security guard Alok Mukherjee with them into the jungle. After some days we were taken into Bangladesh to their base camp. There, we both were chained in our feet and hands and kept under constant vigil by sentry guards. However, we were never tortured during our captive period.


“I used to argue with my captors why they were harming fellow tribals by preventing their development. They would not have answers and say that they are only carrying out orders from their bosses. I asked them to let me meet their bosses but it never happened.  After 11 months of detention, we decided to flee from there at any cost. One day we observed that our sentry guards had worked very hard to fetch firewood and water to the camp. That night when the sentry slept on duty, around 3 am, we both helped each other in unchaining and ran away. We spent many hours in thick jungle, not knowing our way. We had to cross many mountains. Finally, when we heard the horn sound of a passing lorry, we could sense the direction of the road and reached it. There we stopped a car passing through and got into it. Incidentally, it was of a police officer. I told him that I was an MLA from Tripura and about my kidnap. He talked to his higher officials and we were taken to Dhaka and handed over to Indian High Commission. We crossed into India through Akhora check post near Agartala. We felt relieved for being back among the people.”


I asked him about the situation in Simna now. The ever-smiling MLA said although the threat of extremists remains, there is a lot of improvement. “The last five years we worked very hard to catch up with development that our area missed due to extremist problem. A new Hejamara Block Development Office, two new 10-bedded PHCs along with upgradation of an existing one, roads connecting to every village, over 100 mini-deep tube wells to meet the drinking water problem, lift irrigation projects etc are some of our achievements”, he said.


Seeing the enthusiastic participation of tribal youth in the CPI(M) election rally, it was clear to us that the people of Simna are determined not to allow the dark days to return.


(From N S Arjun in Simna

February 8, 2013)