Agartala, March 19: There was a time — between 1982 and 2003 — when the run-up to Assembly elections in Tripura and the state’s two Lok Sabha seats were marred by largescale militancy and high human casualties.
In December 1982, before Assembly polls on January 5 1983, CPM stalwart Dasarath Deb narrowly escaped death in a TNV-laid ambush in the Atharomura ranges of Dhalai district. Deb survived, but five policemen in his escort party fell prey to militants’ bullets.
The cycle of violence against security forces as well as civilians continued as militants operating under banners of the TNV, All Tripura Tiger Force, NLFT and the NLFT (Nayan) continued their pre-poll offensives.
But now before the April 7 polls, police appear to be visibly relieved following authentic reports that the banned NLFT, still based in remote parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, is slowly but steadily disintegrating.
Misappropriation of funds by senior commanders, growing resource crunch, food crisis and the wide gap between the lifestyles of leaders and that of cadres have led to this situation with disaffection among cadres running high.
Senior officials of the special branch (intelligence wing) of state police who interrogated the NLFT’s second-in-command Pandit, alias Panther Debbarma, 41, said this.
Panther, who had joined the NLFT in 1995 and was the second-in-command, had soured his relations with other leaders because of misappropriation of Rs 2 lakh. He along with his wife Nandarani, 38, and associate Puithar Debbarma, 36, were confined to “house arrest” in an NLFT camp at Juipui area in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
Panther, Nandarani and Puithar managed to escape on March 11 and reached Ananda Bazar on March 13.
After contacting police, Panther surrendered before subdivisional police officer (Kanchanpur) Asish Debnath, with his wife and associate without any arms.
“Panther said lower-ranked cadres in the NLFT are not authorised to marry but top leaders can. This has created resentment. As a result, NLFT cadres have started marrying local girls in the CHT and settling down there,” an official of the special branch said.
He added that if the present situation continued, the NLFT would soon disintegrate completely.