50 injured in Tripura, shutdown to oppose Centre’s citizenship bill

Agartala, (IANS) At least 50 persons were on Wednesday injured in Tripura when members of ruling and opposition parties brawled during a 12-hour shutdown jointly called by three tribal parties against the Centre’s citizenship bill, police said.

Three opposition tribal parties jointly called a dawn-to-dusk general strike in Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas to oppose the central government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

“Around 50 persons were injured in which four of them are critical after bandh supporters and ruling Left party members clashed in six different places in Tripura,” a police official said.

The injured were admitted to government hospitals, he said.

“Police arrested around 1,200 picketers from different places of Tripura for obstructing normal life and attacking shops, government schools and offices,” the official added.

He said that in Gandachara, in northern Tripura, at least 21 persons were injured when ruling and opposition party supporters engaged in a clash over observing the strike.

“Clashes among the rival political party supporters also took place in Sabroom (in southern Tripura), Karamchara, Machli, Manu (in northern Tripura), and TTAADC headquarters in Khumulwng (in western Tripura),” the police official added.

Train services in Tripura were disrupted while a large number of offices, educational institutions, banks, shops and markets were closed in view of the shutdown in the TTAADC areas, which controls the northeastern state’s most tribal-dominated areas.

“Normal life was largely affected in the bandh-bound areas,” the police official said.

Heavy security arrangements were in place in the entire TTAADC areas, which fall in all eight districts of Tripura.

The Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and the National Conference of Tripura (NCT) last month formed the All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPF) to oppose the bill introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance.

The bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and now under the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee, seeks to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents have expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalisation.

The TTAADC was formed in 1987 under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to protect and safeguard the political, economic and cultural interests of the tribals. The 30-member politically important council constitutes two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area.

“If the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, is passed in Parliament, the indigenous people in Tripura and other northeastern states would be affected,” ATIRPF Convenor Narendra Chandra Debbarma told the media.

“Bangladeshi migrants through this proposed law would be settled in eastern and northeastern India depriving the original people of the region of basic rights,” the tribal leader said.

Tribals play a crucial role in Tripura politics as one-third of the 60 assembly seats in the state are reserved for the tribals and one out of two Lok Sabha seats is reserved for the tribals.

The IPFT has been agitating for the creation of a separate state, carved out by upgrading the TTAADC area.

All the three tribal parties have been demanding more power to TTAADC, introduction of inner-line permit in Tripura to protect the tribals, recognition of tribal language Kokborok in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution and reservation of 50 per cent seats for the tribals in the 60-member Tripura Assembly.

The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) -led Left Front, Congress and Trinamool Congress opposed the shutdown but announced that they also opposed the Centre’s citizenship bill.

“The CPI-M is also opposed to the citizenship bill, and supports the Indira-Mujib pact which determined March 24, 1971 as cut-off date to detect illegal infiltration into India from Bangladesh,” CPI-M Central Committee member Bijan Dhar told reporters.

Dhar said there is no justification for calling a shutdown on the issue.

“The strike was called as a pretext for formation of alliance before the 2018 assembly elections in the state to destabilise peace, and developmental and welfare schemes undertaken for the development of tribals,” said Dhar, also Secretary of CPI-M’s state unit.

“The three tribal-based parties are unhappy that peace has been established in the state and the decades-old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura,” he added.

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