The author is member of the politburo, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
The Congress is set to enact another dubious chapter in its long history of cynical and amoral manoeuvres in Tripura. Mani Shankar Aiyar’s article, “Is Bejoy Hrangkhawl anti-national'”, in The Telegraph (November 5) portrays the Congress-Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura alliance as the saviour from the misrule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Far from it, the ignoble strategy adopted by the Congress will only cause more bloodshed and suffering to the people of Tripura, both tribal and non-tribal. Having been ousted from office by a popular upsurge in 1993, the Congress is prepared to do anything to come back to power. The Congress cannot countenance a Left Front government which adheres to the basic tenet that Tripura can be a peaceful and prosperous state only on the basis of the unity between the tribal and Bengali peoples.
The entire history of the Congress in Tripura is marked by opportunistic and sectarian electoral manoeuvres — a practice which has brought grief to the whole of the northeastern region. The Congress is not hesitant to stoke communal feelings, a trait originating in the fact that it has no base among the tribal community. That is why Aiyar’s sympathy for the tribal people sounds so hollow and false. Has the Congress ever introspected why it is unable to get even a semblance of support from the tribal people' The Tripura tribal autonomous district council was set up as a result of the CPI(M)’s consistent taking up of the issue and the endeavours of the Left Front government. The Congress in Tripura was hostile to the idea of autonomy for the tribal people. Yet it is prepared at every election to go along with any platform which advocates separatism and shields terrorist violence.
The Congress seeks to find virtue in the leadership of Bejoy Hrangkhawl who is heading the conglomerate called the INPT. It is well-known that the same Hrangkhawl played a leading role in creating the situation which led to the mass killing of innocent people in 1980. This is not a motivated charge. One has to only look at the media reports of that time to understand what Hrangkhawl as up to.
One such instance would suffice. A major national daily of June 20, 1980 stated that Hrangkhawl had “established contacts with rebel Mizo leaders and arranged for training of about 100 tribal volunteers in the outlawed Mizo National Front training camp at Rangamati in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Hrangkhawl proclaimed himself as the chief of the Tripura Tribal National Front (TTNF) and commander-in-chief of the Tripura Sena and declared ‘independent Tripura’ as a goal of his organisation.” Hrangkhawl at that time was also a member of the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity, which later became an ally of the Congress.
It is equally well-known how Hrangkhawl and his extremist outfit, the Tripura National Volunteers, was utilized by Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress to destabilize the Left Front government during the 1988 elections. Aiyar has to only consult the then chief minister of Mizoram, Lalthanhawla, who maintained contact with Hrangkhawl in his hideout in Bangladesh and struck a deal which eventually led to the carnage prior to the 1988 elections. The same Hrangkhawl made a speech in July this year in Geneva where he vehemently criticized the agreement which led to the merger of the princely state of Tripura with India. More dangerously, he supports the activities of the murderous National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force. In his speech he stated: “Thus the NLFT, the ATTF came forward to fill up the gaps demanding fundamental, constitutional and human rights of the Borok people of Tripura. Their demand is right to self-determination which is a born right of every man and woman. They are not secessionist at all as Tripura was never an integral part of India from time immemorial to till India achieved independence.”
Incidentally, Hrangkhawl himself circulated this speech to the media. Hrangkhawl happens to be a member of the legislative assembly of Tripura. He has to face the consequences. There is a case filed against him for making a seditious speech. The Left Front government expects Hrangkhawl to defend himself before a court of law. This is unlike how the Congress dealt with its political opponents. Long before Aiyar descended on Tripura, the Congress government in 1974 had arrested all the opposition members of the legislative assembly belonging to the CPI(M) and sent them for a sojourn to Vellore jail in the home state of Aiyar.
It is a long time since the Congress has won an election democratically in Tripura. That is why it has now embarked upon the harmful course of allying with an organization which is merely a political front of the NLFT. The CPI(M) has no hesitation in making such a serious charge. The NLFT openly worked for the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura by terrorizing the people during the autonomous district council elections in 2000. The IPFT has now converted itself into the INPT. Each of the outfits which merged into the INPT has either open or covert links with the NLFT.
The communist movement in Tripura struck roots among the tribal people through the selfless work of leaders like Dasrath Deb. Everyday the tribal cadre of the party, young and old, men and women are facing the assassin squads of the NLFT and the ATTF. The CPI(M) has lost more than 60 of its tribal cadre at the hands of the murder gangs this year alone. The Congress and the INPT are immune to such attacks for obvious reasons.
The Congress is not concerned with the fact that Tripura has 856 kilometres of international border with Bangladesh; it is not worried about the 51 camps of the NLFT and the ATTF across the borders; it prefers the spate of murders and kidnappings to go on. The crime statistics that Aiyar cites are mainly a result of the terrorist violence perpetrated by gangs like the NLFT and the ATTF. It slanders the police force of Tripura as a communist tool. All for seeking petty electoral gains. The Congress cannot be expected to retrace its steps. The CPI(M) and the Left Front have no such illusions. It will counter this low politics with popular support.