1 dead, 23 hurt in police firing on Tripura protesters

Agartala: 1 person was killed and over 23 were injured when police opened fire at the picketers, who blocked the Assam-Agartala National Highway at Panisagar in North Tripura district on Saturday in protest against resettlement of Bru migrants from neighbouring Mizoram, police said.

Notably, a large number of people gathered on the national highway at Panisagar and blocked it, demanding to call off the resettlement planning of the government.

Locally known as “Assam Road”, the highway is often called the lifeline of Tripura as it connects the state with the rest of the country.

Joint Movement Committee (JMC) comprising Bengalis and local Mizos had observed five days strike from Monday on the issue and the highway Saturday.

The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the police firing at the NH-8. The government has also announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs5 lakh to the family of the deceased.

State Law minister Ratan Lal Nath, who is also the cabinet spokesperson, said probe would be conducted by district magistrate of North Tripura, Nagesh Kumar, and he would submit report "within one month".

The CM chaired an important meeting with the Dy CM in presence of director general of police, VS Yadav and additional DGP, Rajiv Singh and took stock of the situation, Nath told reporters at civil secretariat here.

Reportedly, the Bru issue started in September 1997 following demands of a separa­te autonomous district council by carving out areas of western Mizoram adjoining Bangladesh and Tripura.

About 30,000 Bru tribals then fled Mizoram due to the ethnic tension there and took shelter in refugee camps in Tripura. The first attempt to repatriate the Brus was made in November 2009 by the Centre along with the govts of Tripura and Mizoram. However, the had met with little success.

The Centre signed a fresh agreement in January this year according to which the Brus who stayed back in Tripura relief camps will not be forced to return.

The Centre sanctioned Rs600 crore as rehabilitation package for the displaced Brus as a final solution to the vexed problem after the agreement.

JMC chairman Zairemthiama Pachuau recently told newsmen the North Tripura district magistrate assured 1,500 families would be settled in the area. “But now the government is trying to settle 6,000 families,” he said.

Trouble started, when a large contingent of police and paramilitary, including Tripura State Rifles (TSR), were involved in a scuffle following altercation over withdrawal of the road blockade.

Police resorted to lathi charge and later opened fire on the agitators, leading to death of a 40 year-old Srikanta Das, a carpenter who was among the protests.

ADG Rajiv Singh said the police was compelled to fire in self defence since the crowd had turned unruly and tried to snatch weapons from the security personnel.

“The crowd obstructed the national highway since morning without permission. We tried to dissuade them from doing so and after they became violent, we tried mild lathi charge, blank firing but the crowd went unruly and tried to snatch weapons. Police fired in self-defence,” the official said.

Singh admitted 1 person was killed in the police firing and few others were wounded, but added over 9 Tripura Police and Fire Service personnel were injured in assaults by the protesters.

Free Press Journal