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Life cripples in Tripura after call for shutdown against CAB

Agartala, Dec 9  Life was almost crippled in TTAADC areas in Tripura on Monday as many tribal parties including BJP’s ally IPFT observed shutdown against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).

Road and rail traffic were badly affected and thousands of passengers stranded in the midway as the picketers did not allow plying the vehicles and trains running between Tripura and rest of the country. Police said that no major untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas, which has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area, and home to over 12 lakh people, mostly tribals.

Huge contingent of security forces including central para-military and Tripura State Rifles (TSR) were deployed to deal with the situation. Police arrested few hundred picketers for blockeding highways and single railway line connecting Tripura with the remaining parts of the country through Assam.

Two universities – Tripura University (a central varsity) and Maharaja Bir Bikram University (under Tripura Government) – postponed their examinations due to the strike. Senior police officials in Agartala quoting reports from the various districts, said that government offices, banks, educational institutions, shops and markets were closed in most places under the TTAADC areas.

According to the police officials, most private and passenger vehicles were off the roads. Police evicted the picketers who tried to block the roads and railway tracks in a few places. The IPFT called for 12-hour shut down on Monday in TTAADC areas while the Joint Movement Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (JMACAB), a conglomeration of all other tribal based local and regional parties, NGOs and student and youth organisations of Tripura, has also called indefinite strike across Tripura from Monday protesting against the CAB.

IPFT Assistant General Secretary and party spokesman Mangal Debbarma said that his party held a seven-hour long demonstration in Jantar Mantar in Delhi on December 2 to protest against the CAB and also to press for its demand for a separate state for the indigenous tribals, who constitute one third of Tripura’s four-million strong populations.

A delegation of IPFT, led by party General Secretary and Tripura Forest and Tribal Welfare Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia, also met Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and submitted a memorandum highlighting its demands.

Debbarma said a similar memorandum was also submitted to the offices of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Tribal Affairs Minister and DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Minister.

IPFT, the junior ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has been agitating since 2009 for the creation of a separate state for the indigenous tribals by upgrading the TTAADC.

The ruling BJP, the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Congress and Tripura’s oldest tribal-based party Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) have been strongly opposing the IPFT’s separate state demand.

The INPT, which is a constitute of the JMACAB, organised a blockade on Tripura’s main National Highway and the lone railway line for 12 hours on December 5, to protest against the CAB.

Another tribal based party, Twipraland State Party, also observed a 12-hour shut down on December 2 to protest against the CAB, which seeks to fast-track giving Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Jains from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India till December 31, 2014.

Outlawed militant outfit National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) also in a statement opposed the CAB.

The ruling BJP opposed the shutdown while Congress and Communist Party of India-Marxist remained tactful over the strike as the two parties also opposing the CAB.