Agartala: One youth was killed and 23 others including security personnel injured in police firing, attacks and clashes on Saturday as the police had to fire on an agitating mob, who went berserk while observing a shutdown during a protest that had been on for the past six days in northern Tripura to oppose the government’s decision to rehabilitate thousands of refugees.
These tribal refugees had fled to adjoining Mizoram 23 years ago following ethnic strife in the state.
Police said that 45-years-old Srikanta Das was shot dead and 23 others including security and fire service personnel seriously injured when police had to open fire on the agitating mob that also attacked the security forces at Panisagar in North Tripura district.
“The agitated mob damaged three government and police vehicles and a motorbike. Government would give Rs 5 lakh relief to the family of Srikanta Das,” North Tripura district Magistrate and Collector Nagesh Kumar told the media on Saturday evening.
He said: “Huge contingent of security forces including Tripura State Rifles troopers led by senior police officials were mobilised in Panisagar and Kanchanpur sub-divisions (in North Tripura District) to deal with the situation.”
The injured were admitted to various government hospitals.
A tweet of Tripura police said: “Even after facing brutal attack, police personnel showed utmost restraint and sensitivity in maintaining law & order and proportionate force was used in self defence in Panisagar incident today (Saturday).”
Thousands of people since Friday infrequently blockading the National Highway-8, the life-line of Tripura, at Panisagar and subsequently turned violent on Saturday and broken the police barricade forcing the police to resort to lath charge and burst teargas shells before opening the firing.
Normal life has been crippled in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division, adjoining Panisagar sub-division and Mizoram, for the sixth day on Saturday with tensions running high.
The situation remained explosive as the Joint Movement Committee (JMC) called shutdown for an indefinite period since Monday in Kanchanpur sub-division to protest the Tripura and Central governments’ decision to rehabilitate around 35,000 Reang tribal refugees, who had fled to adjoining Mizoram in October 1997 following the ethnic conflict.
The agitations since Thursday extended in the nearby sub-divisions and districts including Panisagar as the state administrations did not take any steps to quell the situations and hold any talks with the protesters.
According to police, the situation in the mixed populated sub-division in Kanchanpur further deteriorated after a few tribal refugees attacked a non-tribal pump operator, 36 houses of non-tribals on Tuesday evening forcing over 110 people to flee to safer places.
Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Police Officer Bikramjit Sukladas said that the government offices, markets, shops and business establishments remained closed while all types of vehicles, except those of the security forces, health services and the media, remained off the roads.
Kanchanpur’s Sub-Divisional Magistrate Chandni Chandran told IANS that the government is yet to finalise the locations and number of Reang tribal (locally called themselves “Bru”) refugee family members to be rehabilitated in her sub-division, adjoining Mizoram.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb earlier said in Agartala that the process of rehabilitation of the tribal refugees was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic but the Centre and the state government are committed to settle these migrants in Tripura.
JMC Convener Sushanta Bikash Barua said that they had earlier welcomed the state government’s decision to rehabilitate a small number of the tribal refugees in Kanchanpur.
He said : “Considering the area and demography of the Kanchanpur sub-division, we had urged the government, on a number of occasions, to rehabilitate not more than 500 refugee families here, but the government unilaterally initiated the process to settle 5,000 tribal families in the area.”
Barua, accompanied by the other leaders of the JMC, said that on September 22 a 12-hour strike was observed demanding that the state government alter its decision to rehabilitate the huge number of tribal refugees, but the government remained adamant on its decision.
The Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (Citizen Protection Forum) and Mizo Convention, both representing the non-tribals and Lusai (Lushai) tribals are part of the JMC.
An agreement was signed in January this year to end the 23-year-old crisis by rehabilitating over 34,000 refugees, from 5,400 families of the Reang community, locally called “Bru”. They would be settled in different places in Tripura, including Kanchanpur, where they had migrated in 1997 from Mizoram following ethnic conflict.
The agreement was signed by the Chief Secretaries of Mizoram, Tripura and the representatives of the refugees in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
As per the agreement, which came after the Tripura Chief Minister had in November last year agreed to accept the tribal refugees, the Reangs will settle in Tripura and will be given financial aid for their rehabilitation. They will also be included as voters in Tripura as per the agreement.
The Centre has announced a package of Rs 600 crore for the settlement of these tribals, recognised as a primitive tribe in Tripura.
Of the package, Rs 150 lakh will be given to the Tripura government for land acquisition, and the rest of the money will be spent upon the welfare of these tribals, who traditionally follow the unscientific “Jhum” (slash and burn) method of cultivation.
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