Economic development tamed terrorism: Tripura Police chief

By Sujit Chakraborty, IANS,

Agartala : Economic development helped defeat the four-decade-old insurgency in Tripura as did a crackdown by neighbouring Bangladesh on anti-India guerrillas, says the state’s police chief.

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“Development, largely coupled with the Bangladesh government’s crackdown against northeast India’s rebels, helped Tripura to persuade tribal guerrillas to give up the path of violence,” Director General of Police K. Saleem Ali told IANS in an interview.

“Of the 66 police stations in Tripura, only three police station areas in the northern part – Kanchanpur, Chawmanu and Gandachara – have some militant presence. We will soon flush them out permanently,” he said.

Ali said even during the peak of insurgency from 1996 to 2008, the developmental work did not stop.

“Laying of the railway track up to Agartala remained uninterrupted with the help of Tripura State Rifles (TSR),” he said.

Tripura capital Agartala is the newest station of Indian Railways and came up on the country’s rail map in October 2008.

“There was a situation when the movement of officials, people and workers in the interior and hilly areas was not possible without security,” he said.

“Besides development and sops to the needy, fencing along the India-Bangladesh border, modernisation and training of security forces and their incredible dedication made Tripura a model state in India in curbing the four-decade-old terrorism,” the police chief said.

“During the peak of insurgency, 9,000 of the total 26,000 police troopers were alert day and night to protect the lives and property of people,” he said.

He also said modernisation of the police force boosted the confidence of the personnel.

Ali, who served in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for more than 14 years and in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) for four years, said the support of the ruling and tribal parties and locals was a key factor in combating militancy.

He said Tripura Police’s most elite unit, the Tripura State Rifles (TSR), had earned kudos from the prime minister and many state governments for successfully flushing out terrorism.

The TSR was constituted in 1984 to counter terrorism in Tripura — 75 percent of its troopers are from the state, while the remaining are drawn from across the country.

“The Tripura government has withdrawn many cases that were pending against militants or surrendered militants. These cases include the killing of (former Tripura health minister) Bimal Sinha. This shows how much the government is sincere to solve the terrorism issue,” Ali told IANS.

According to him, currently, there are only 14 camps of Tripura militants in Bangladesh, compared to over 50 seven-eight years back.

According to a document prepared by the Tripura government, the first organised armed tribal rebellion in the state was ‘Senkrak’ (which means hero in tribal language) in parts of northern and western Tripura in 1967.

The movement was a reaction to the settling down of non-tribal refugees (from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in the tribal and semi-urban areas. The rebellion was, however, controlled in 1968.

Terrorism in an organised form began with the emergence of Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) led by Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl in December 1978. The TNV cadres surrendered in 1988 following a tripartite accord among Tripura, the central government and the outfit.

According to official records, over 8,075 tribal guerrillas of the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and other separatist outfits, including many carrying rewards of Rs.250,000 and with Interpol warrants against them, have fled from Bangladeshi camps and surrendered before the Tripura government since 1993.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])