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NEW DELHI: Close on the heels of post-poll violence in West Bengal, pre-election clashes are being witnessed in Tripura. Though the violence in Tripura is not as widespread and intense as in West Bengal, there are chances that the situation might worsen by the time the northeastern state goes to polls in 2023.
Political violence is not new to West Bengal and Kerala. Incidentally, both have a history of being ruled by the Left for a long period of time. While the Left ruled West Bengal for 34 years till 2011, CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is currently at the helm in the southern state.
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Bihar too have witnessed violence. More than political violence, J&K has seen political terrorism.
Bihar has witnessed more of caste wars in the name of political violence. However, even that phenomenon is on the wane.
But Tripura is witnessing unprecedented political violence in recent times. There are chances that the violence in West Bengal may have been a trigger for clashes in Tripura.
The BJP, which challenged West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC), faced the brunt of violence. Banerjee, who was physically attacked a couple of times, earned the epithet of a “street-fighter” for challenging the ruling CPM.
In the same way, TMC, which is the challenger in Tripura, is facing a backlash, allegedly from the ruling BJP.
In both the states, it may be a case of might is right.
History of political violence in West Bengal
West Bengal is not new to political violence. It witnessed its first violent political violence after Independence in the form of the Tebhaga movement between 1946 and 1948.
Landowners supported by the ruling Congress clashed with Communist Party of India (CPI)-backed peasants who demanded two-thirds share of the harvest for the sharecroppers.
The Naxalite movement of the 1960s, particularly the one led by Charu Majumdar in 1967, is a bloody chapter in the history of the state.
Many believe that 34 years of Left rule is held to be one of the major reasons for the political violence.
Operation Barga in the early 1980s, under which plots were distributed among landless peasants, resulted in the emergence of a new class of landowners. It also led to clashes between the new and old landowners.
Violence was allegedly perpetrated by the ruling CPM on TMC, which was founded by Mamata Banerjee on January 1, 1998. The Nandigram police firing of 2007 took away the lives of 14 people. From 2008 to 2011, Maoists killed about 100 CPM cadres in the Junglemahal region.
After TMC led by Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011, the CPM was at the receiving end of the violence.
TMC vs BJP in West Bengal
However, ever since the BJP replaced the CPM as TMC’s main challenger, its cadres and supporters are facing violence, allegedly from the ruling dispensation – be it in the 2018 municipal polls, before the 2021 assembly election or after it. According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), West Bengal topped the list of political murders in 2019.
After the post-poll violence, the BJP moved the Calcutta high court which ordered a CBI probe into the allegations of murders, rapes and other atrocities against women. It also ordered an investigation by a special investigation team (SIT) into allegations of lesser crimes.
The West Bengal government moved the Supreme Court against the Calcutta high court order directing a CBI probe.
BJP vs TMC in Tripura
The CPM ruled Tripura for five terms and 25 long years from 1993 to 2018 – first term between 1993 and 1998 under Dasarath Deb as chief minister and the later four terms with Manik Sarkar as the CM.
The BJP dislodged the CPM government in 2018 by winning 36 of the 60 assembly seats. Biplab Kumar Deb was installed as the Tripura CM. While the CPM won 16 seats, TMC could not open its account even though it had contested on 24 seats.
However, after its landslide victory in the West Bengal assembly election in May, TMC set its eye on Tripura. It is trying to fill the vacuum created by the CPM. After West Bengal, it has engaged Prashant Kishor-led Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) for Tripura too.
TMC is meeting with resistance from the ruling BJP. The first clash between the BJP and TMC took place when a team of I-PAC, which had gone to Tripura to conduct a survey, was detained in their hotel room on charges of violation of COVID-19 protocols.
TMC rushed its Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien to Agartala to defuse the situation. Since then, TMC workers are said to be facing the brunt of the BJP might.
TMC Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev was also allegedly attacked while campaigning in the state last month.
The elections to urban local bodies (ULB) on November 25 has witnessed a fresh spate of violence in the state.
TMC has alleged that several people sustained injuries after an attack on the residence of its Tripura unit’s steering committee chief Subal Bhowmik in Bhagaban Thakur Chowmuni area of Agartala on November 21.
The TMC MPs also sat on a dharna on Monday morning in Delhi against the arrest of Trinamool Youth Congress chief Saayoni Ghosh by Tripura Police. Actor-turned-politician Ghosh was arrested on November 21 for allegedly causing a ruckus at a public meeting where Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb was present.
A delegation of TMC MPs met home minister Amit Shah at his residence in New Delhi on November 22.
TMC general secretary and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee has rushed to Agartala to handle the situation.
In a Koo on Tuesday, the Tripura TMC unit said, “We are unfazed by Biplab Deb’s Duare Gunda Raj. People in Tripura can see through all your actions and will very soon oust the BJP Tripura govt and welcome real growth, real development… #AbhishekBanerjeeInTripura”

TMC also approached the Supreme Court seeking contempt action against the Tripura government and others for ‘failing to check violent incidents against opposition parties’ in the run up to the ULB election. The party alleged that its leaders were being attacked and not allowed to campaign for the elections.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna on Tuesday ordered Tripura DGP and IG to consider deploying additional forces. It also directed Tripura DGP and home secretary to submit their statement on the arrangements put in place to ensure free and fair municipal elections in the violence-hit state.
Tripura may be on its way to witness political violence as in West Bengal.

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