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Tripura tribals block rail, road routes over statehood

Agartala, June 22: Demanding a separate state, a tribal outfit in Tripura on Wednesday blockaded the tiol Highway No.8 and the railway line — the Northeastern state’s two vital links with the outside world. The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which has been agitating for the past few years for creation of a separate state, started its scheduled 24-hour rail and road blockade at 6 a.m. on Wednesday at Khamting Bari in Baramura hill range in western Tripura. Tribal protesters led by their leaders sat on the highway and the state’s sole railway line.

“Around 10,000 agitators blockaded the tiol highway and the railway line, shouting slogans intermittently,” West Tripura district police chief Abhijit Saptarshi, who is camping at the agitation spot, told IANS over phone. He said that so far no untoward incident has occurred.

“We have made adequate security measures in and around the sites of rail and road blockade. Tripura State Rifles and central para-military forces, led by senior officials, have been deployed in the areas,” Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Anurag told IANS.

The IPFT wants a separate state to be carved out of Tripura by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC). The ruling Left Front domited by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is now governing the TTAADC, which was formed by amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in 1985. IPFT President randra Chandra Debbarma accused the Left Front government of creating the TTAADC only as a “lame duck institution” without any real powers.

“Very little development taken place in the tribal areas. The basic problems of the tribal people have not been solved. Tribals continue to lose their land. Even the state of affairs of the Kokborok language of the indigenous tribals is dejected,” Debbarma told reporters.

“We had submitted memorandum to the union Home Ministry several times. The ministry officials said our demand would be considered positively. Talks between the leaders of IPFT and the central government are on,” the IPFT chief said.

The ruling Left Front, the opposition Congress, Bharatiya Jata Party (BJP) and other political parties have strongly opposed the IPFT’s demand for a separate state. They said the demand would encourage outlawed militant groups to regain foothold in the state. CPI-M central committee member Gautam Das told IANS: “A small state like Tripura cannot be divided further. They (IPFT) are merely trying to regain relevance in the state politics by raising such an impractical and provocative demand.”

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had also earlier on many occasions rejected the demand, saying that the Left Front government would not allow any attempt to divide the state. Sarkar also said that he would resist any such move with all his might. The TTAADC, which has been playing a key role in the socio-economic development of tribals, has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s geographical area of 10,491.69 sq. km. Over 12.16 lakh people, more than 90 per cent of whom are tribals, reside in the areas administered by the TTAADC. Tribals constitute a third of Tripura’s total population of 3.7 million people. (IANS)