People's Democracy

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


No. 07

February 17, 2013


Ambasa: A Fight between

Terror and Peace


From N S Arjun

in Ambasa


IT was the time of assembly election campaigning in Tripura in 1983. The then general secretary of the CPI(M), EMS Namboodiripad was returning to Agartala along with the then Tripura deputy chief minister Dasharat Deb after campaigning in North Tripura. The convoy was ambushed by the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) extremists in Jeolcherra near Ambasa. Both leaders escaped unhurt but four CRPF jawans in the convoy died in the attack.


The then commander of TNV and architect of massacres of thousands of people in his span as terrorist, Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal, was behind that attack on CPI(M) leaders. Hrangkhwal, who is now the president of INPT, is contesting from Ambasa. Naturally, the entire discourse of campaign here is centred around extremism and tribal nationalism. It has become a fight between terror and peace.


Who is Hrangkhwal and why he is so much a symbol of terror in Tripura? After the formation of the first Left Front government in Tripura in 1978, the Congress in its bid to weaken the Left decided to rake up tribal chauvinism against Bengalis. Hrangkhwal, as additional general secretary of TUJS, was a key player in this project. He formed TNV as an extremist militant outfit and became its commander. This was also a part of larger conspiracy of CIA which had launched Operation Brahmaputra to create disturbances in North East and make the states secede from India. The CIA got Pakistan intelligence service ISI to provide training to TNV extremists. Their base camp was in Mayani reserve forest area in Chittagong district of Bangladesh. This forest area is just adjoining Tripura.


After receiving training, the TNV extremists turned Tripura into killiing fields by carrying out attacks across the state targeting non-tribals and CPI(M) leaders, workers and supporters. They sparked off communal riots in the state by killing  non-tribals in a major carnage in Mandai in 1980. Over 1300 innocents lost their lives in those riots as communal violence spread across the state. Hrangkhwal surrendered in 1988 just after elections by directly dealing with the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi through Mizoram chief minister Lalthanwala.  Under the secret pact, the TNV massacred 91 innocent non tribals just days before the elections, giving the central government an excuse to promulgate Disturbed Areas Act in the state and send Army, keeping the state government entirely in dark. The Congress in alliance with TUJS murdered democracy by openly rigging the results in the counting centre at Agartala to capture power from back door, which was then followed by the semi fascist terror in the state for the following five years.


Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal is today facing the toughest electoral battle of his life in Ambasa. He had been winning from here since 1998 but steadily his majority has been coming down. In the 2008 assembly election he just scraped through with a majority of 115 votes. The CPI(M) has fielded a retired government servant, Lalit Kumar Debbarma who had also worked as Ambasa Block Development Officer and performed exceptionally well to take on Hrangkhwal. On the day we went to Ambasa, there was a huge motorcycle rally by CPI(M) in which over 500 youth rode their bikes decorated with Red flags. There was heavy security presence in the constituency with central forces and Tripura State Rifles personnel deployed every 100 metres.


Mahendra Namashudra, a 70 year old dalit agricultural labourer, narrated to us the terror wreaked by Hrangkwhal and his men. He had to flee from his village in 2002 after facing continuous harassment from the extremists who extorted whatever meagre belongings and goods he had. He has been living in Ambasa town eking out his living by selling fish door to door. It was the case for most of the CPI(M) supporters in this region. Namashudra said over 100 CPI(M) workers and supporters were killed by the extremists during that period. He is clear that it is only the Left Front that can guarantee peace in the state.


The CPI(M) has also linked the defeat of Hrangkhwal in this constituency to further guaranteeing of peace and development in the region. Even today traffic is not allowed after dusk on the main highway passing through dense forest that links Agartala. The yearning for  peace and development appears to be the dominant opinion among voters also this time. Faced with this mounting opposition, Hrangkhwal is using his terrorist links to threaten the tribal voters during nights in interior villages to vote for him or face consequences. He is also doing communal campaign by using Bible and making Christians among tribals to vote for him. He is also distributing money and pork meat among tribals to woo them. Apart from this Pradyut Kishore Debbarma, heir of erstwhile tribal royal family, is also widely campaigning for Hrangkhwal by trying to raise passions of tribal nationalism. Interestingly Pradyut is general secretary of Congress party.


Despite all these attempts by Hrangkhwal, it appears that the people of Ambasa will decisively vote in favour of peace and continued development in this crucial battle.


 February 10, 2013)