Agartala, Jan. 27: Blood stained Tripura’s run-up to the Assembly elections with suspected militants killing 11 supporters of the ruling CPM and their family members after picking them out from a non-tribal area.
The massacre occurred last night in West Tripura’s Bankim Nagar, 30 km from Agartala, despite security alerts about possible militant strikes on or before Republic Day.
The CPM had also appealed to the Election Commission last week to step up security arrangements in Tripura in the wake of attacks on party workers.
The commission today asked the states, including Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, going to polls on February 26 to be on high alert against communal campaigning.
Militants belonging to the All-Tripura Tiger Force are active in this area, but CPM leaders said the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) rebels were behind the attack.
Both the banned organisations have been campaigning against non-tribals — an euphemism for settlers in the state — and have been targeting the CPM, which is dominated by non-tribals.
The CPM observed a 12-hour bandh in the Jirania block today in protest against the killings, while the Opposition Congress separately announced an extension of the bandh by 12 hours.
Sources said that last night’s attack was carried out at 8 pm during a power cut. A group of CPM supporters, including Madhusudan Goswami and Harekrishna Sutradhar, had been collecting donations from villagers for the party’s poll fund after a procession of Congress-INPT workers had just passed through the area.
The militants, dressed in Assam Rifles uniform and wearing masks, stormed the houses of eight CPM supporters. They opened fire indiscriminately and left the spot in 15 minutes.
Those who died on the spot include Madhusudan Goswami, Harekrishna Sutradhar, a six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.
Thirteen others, who were critically injured in the attack, were rushed to G.B. Hospital here. Seven persons who died in hospital were identified as Pranbala Shil, Prankrishna Shil, Sheuli Shil, Priyabala Shil, Rinku Debnath, Kanu Roy and Shankar Sutradhar.
Two of the injured persons died on the operation table. The remaining six of the injured were identified as Ruma Roy, Minati Debnath, Sumati Shil, Mintu Sutradhar, Manik Shil and Jharna Sutradhar.
Shortly after the massacre, the industry minister and CPM legislator from the affected Mazlishpur constituency, Pabitra Kar, rushed to the spot with a large contingent of policemen led by superintendent of police (West) Anurag Dhankar.
Combing operations launched last night are continuing but there have been no arrests made so far. Jirania police station officer-in-charge Amiya Chowdhury said there were reports that militants might strike in the area before the elections.
He did not identify the militant outfit responsible for the killing, but he added that “the area is dominated by the Tiger Force”.
Krishnagopal Sutradhar, cousin and neighbour of slain CPM worker Harekrishna Sutradhar, told newsmen that he narrowly escaped the attack by ducking behind his mud-walled house.Police sources here said security in the entire area under Jirania police station has been beefed up after last night’s massacre. The police, Tripura State Rifles and CRPF jawans are currently deployed in the area. Diphu attack: Militants of the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) shot dead four people of a minority community and injured as many in an attack on the eve of Republic Day near Diphu, adds our staff reporter from Guwahati.
Police sources said a group of armed militants attacked a settlement of migrant labourers in the Satmile area and sprayed bullets on a group of people after dragging them out of their huts. Those killed included Gopal Sinh and his brother Manoj, 65-year-old Basmati Devi and Surendra Gaur. The killings occurred around midnight.