People's Democracy

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


No. 32

August 11 , 2013



Youth March to Guwahati to Demand Rail Line

Rahul Sinha

ON August 5, Monday, the Agartala railway station witnessed an enthusiastic and militant gathering of masses as 550 leaders and cadres of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and Tribal Youth Federation (TYF) embarked on a march for Guwahati. The march aims to voice the much pressing demand of development of railway linkage and other connectivity facilities in Tripura, a burning demand for the all round development of the state. The march is part of a wider movement to secure better rail, road, air and telecom connectivities for Tripura.

It was about three months ago when the Tripura state committee of the DYFI and central committee of the TYF, two leading Left oriented youth organisations in the state, had announced their programme of march to Guwahati and stage a mass sit-in at Maligaon, the headquarters of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), near Guwahati. Speedy completion of a broad gauge rail track from Lumding in Assam to Sabroom in Tripura, speedy completion of the project to connect Sabroom with Agartala through a rail line and to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh, establishment of a railway division and railway recruitment centre in Tripura, filling up of all the vacant posts in the railways and immediate steps for upgradation of passenger amenities are the major demands of this march. The run-up to the march saw an intense wave of agitations across the state, drawing hearty greetings and militant solidarity from all walks of life.

It was initially planned that a contingent of 850 youth would travel by train through the Barak Valley of Assam. But the train journey had to be cancelled and the number of the youth reduced to 550 because of the strikes and economic blockades imposed by different groups in Assam to press for the demands of separate states. Ten buses carrying these 550 youth started their journey towards Guwahati after thousands of common people as well as the Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar and other leaders of the democratic movement bid them farewell. The solidarity meeting in the premises of Agartala railway station unfailingly brought back the memories of May 1, 1986, when the student and youth of the state, led by Manik Sarkar, had embarked on a journey for Delhi --- called Delhi Abhiyan --- to press for the demands of rail lines and industries for the state.

The solidarity meeting was presided over by DYFI state president Tapas Dutta, TYF president Radhacharan Debbarma and DYFI CEC member Mitali Bhattacharya. CPI(M) state secretary Bijan Dhar and other state secretariat members were also present on the occasion. The members of the brigade that had marched to Delhi in 1986 were felicitated at the August 5 meeting.

Addressing the gathering and congratulating the two youth organisations for this movement programme, Manik Sarkar said these demands are essentially demands for the development of the state and hence the demands of the entire population of Tripura. But at the same time these demands are for the North East region as a whole. He said one of the main reasons of the insurgency problem in the North East is its underdevelopment and backwardness. After the decision about creating a state of Telangana, Assam is now on fire due to the demands of separate states of Bodoland and Karbi Anglong. There is also the demand of a separate Kamtapuri state by joining together some portions of Assam and some of West Bengal. It is essentially underdevelopment that has fuelled these demands. The Congress party has ruled the country for more than 55 years but its sheer negligence and apathy towards the North East have given rise to several insurgent movements in most of the states in this region.

Sarkar further said the rail, road, air and telecom connectivities are a must for optimum utilisation of the natural resources of North East in order to ensure its development. But that is not happening. One may well ask: Why the Golden Quadrilateral road network must stop at Guwahati and not get extended up to Sabroom via Shillong, Silchar and Agartala? It was a long and arduous struggle that brought a rail line up to Agartala. But the metre gauge track is of little use. We want a broad gauge rail link up to Sabroom and access to the Chittagong seaport in Bangladesh. This will convert Tripura into the gateway for the whole of North East India. But the centre is totally reluctant to meet these demands. Moreover, it is curtailing the fund allocated for railway expansion in the state; delaying tactics are being applied in case of the Agartala-Akhaura rail link as well. This is not the problem of Tripura alone. Even after so many years of independence, other state capitals of the North East are yet to be linked by rail. To date the region is a victim of the step-motherly attitude of the centre.

Manik Sarkar said a mass sit-in programme at the headquarters of the NF Railway will not suffice. This movement is to be sustained and continued further. The Congress and the ruling coalition at the centre are following such economic policies as are leading the country into a total mess. Mindless plundering of the country�s resources is going on. So this movement of the youth must merge itself with the larger struggle for alternative policies to save the country.

DYFI state president Tapas Dutta said today�s struggle for rail is a continuation of the long and glorious struggles that started in 1952. It will continue till the demands are achieved.

TYF president Radhacharan Debbarma termed the struggle as the struggle for all round development of the state.

TYF general secretary Pranab Debbarma, DYFI state secretary Amal Chakraborty and CPI(M)�s Dukli district committee secretary Subrata Chakraborty also addressed the meeting.

After the meeting, ten buses loaded with the youth members of the delegation started for Guwahati. After the caravan enters the Barak Valley of Assam, 200 youth of Assam would join them in their march towards Guwahati. It is learnt that on its way to Guwahati, the brigade would be felicitated at a number of places.