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Tripura is witnessing a sharp step up in political violence as well as what seems to be overzealous police action using stringent laws for ‘offences’ that don’t really merit such responses. The current cycle of confrontations can be traced back to clashes between BJP and CPM cadres in early September followed by attacks on CPM party offices and media outlets. With the Left being pushed to the backfoot leaving BJP victorious in a third of civic body seats that went uncontested, TMC governing neighbouring Bengal has spied a political opening.
Democratic politics implies that parties must function peaceably. While politics in India is often a high stakes battle for control over the state and its resources, no other region has evoked as much concern as Bengal for its inability to reverse a five-decade-long descent into political violence. In 2018 and 2019, it topped in political murders. It also has the dubious distinction of producing most winning candidates facing serious criminal cases (39%) in the five state elections this year. The governing party’s monopoly over violence that TMC inherited from CPM and further fine-tuned has grave portents if other states begin to replicate this model.
Tripura’s political and cultural proximity to Bengal and the recent violence seem to indicate this is already happening with the intense TMC-BJP rivalry spilling over. Anti-minority actions in Bangladesh are also resonating on this side. The return of violence and the high-handedness against critics makes for poor optics for the governing BJP. And TMC is not inspiring much hope for peaceful politics either. Tripura was one of Northeast’s success stories in that it overcame insurgency and withdrew the draconian AFSPA in 2015. New divides along party and communal lines signify a dangerous rupture for a state already divided along a Bengali-tribal axis. Tripura must not follow Bengal in becoming a reflexively politically violent state.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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