Violence erupted in Tripura as a result of clashes between the police and Hindu groups. The groups were protesting against the police’s refusal to permit them to hold a rally against the recent attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh. The police increased security in many areas and restricted gatherings.
Earlier this month, rumours were spread that the Quran had been insulted at a special pavilion set up for the Hindu religious festival of Durga Puja in Bangladesh. At least seven people were killed, scores of houses were torched and temples were desecrated. In the past four days, more than ten incidents of religious violence have been reported in the North Tripura district. Following Tuesday night’s violence in Panisagar, where a mosque and several shops belonging to Muslims were vandalised, authorities restricted large gatherings. An attack was carried out following a rally taken out by the hardline Hindu organisation, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). A viral video shows a procession carrying a VHP banner marching to a chant of “Muhammad tera baap kaun”, meaning “Muhammad, who is your father”, to which the crowd responds with cries of “Hare Krishna Hare Ram”.
Taking place on October 15, this rally was one of several organised by the VHP and its associate groups to protest the attacks on Bengali Hindus in Bangladesh during Durga Puja. A Muslim mob had targeted Hindu ashrams and pandals during the festival, including the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISCKON) temples. An attack was launched on the Radha Krishna temple in Chowmuhani, Bangladesh. Jatan Saha, a devotee, was beaten to death, while Pranta Das, another devotee, drowned in a pond.
Soubhik Dey, a senior police official in Panisagar said that 3,500 people had attended the rally. According to Dey, some VHP activists with the rally ransacked a mosque in Chamtilla, followed by the ransacking of three homes and three shops, and the burning of two shops in Rowa Bazar around 800 yards from the first attack, as reported by Newslaundry. The ransacked shops and houses belonged to people of the Muslim community. The police have filed a case after receiving a complaint from one of them. Narayan Das, a local leader of the Bajrang Dal, another hardline Hindu group, claims that some youngsters abused them and brandished swords in front of the mosque, a charge that has not been independently verified.
A Tripura Police tweet said that “some people are spreading rumours and spreading provocative messages on social media”, urging the public to maintain peace. A Muslim organisation, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind alleged last week that mobs had attacked mosques and neighbourhoods dominated by Muslims. According to the police, more than 150 mosques in Tripura are under their protection.
Leaders of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is venturing into Tripura politics for the first time, have also been attacked. A week ago, TMC Member of Parliament Sushmita Dev’s car was attacked and she sustained minor injuries. Earlier in August, the convoy of TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee was also attacked in Tripura. The party alleges that the attacks on Muslims were committed by “politically motivated fringe elements” close to the BJP. Dev told the BBC that the BJP will exploit the recent violence in Bangladesh to “polarise” voters ahead of the November municipal elections in the state.
The state will hold municipal elections in November, following which the state assembly election will be held in February 2023. The state legislature has 60 seats, of which 20 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes. The TMC, which has largely Bengali roots, will most likely be a non-starter on these seats where the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) holds the advantage. The remaining 40 seats are being contested by the TMC, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and the BJP.
In response to the violent incidents, the BJP, on Thursday, set up a five-member investigation committee. The party’s state in-charge, Vinod Sonkar said that the committee contains people from minority communities. In an interview with the BBC under condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, a BJP leader said that the opposition shouldn’t “spin political capital out of sporadic incidents as a reaction to the massive attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh”.
The BJP has accused the CPI(M) and the TMC of stoking violence to gain political advantage. Both the CPI(M) and TMC attacked the BJP for creating tensions among communities, while also accusing the VHP of escalating tensions. “Few provocative programmes including one at Chamtilla in Panisagar happened, which is condemnable. I appeal to all sections of people to maintain communal unity and integrity,” said leader of opposition and former chief minister Manik Sarkar.
Rahul Gandhi criticised the government in a tweet on Thursday, condemning the attacks on mosques and Muslim neighborhoods in North Tripura. He stated in a tweet that the government was pretending there wasn’t a problem in the northeastern state.
“Our Muslim brothers are being brutalised in Tripura. Those who do hatred and violence in the name of Hindu are not Hindus, they are hypocrites. How long will the government continue to pretend to be blind and deaf?” Rahul Gandhi said in his tweet.