Tribal party demands talks for separate state to end blockade in Tripura

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A Tripura tribal party,has blockaded the national highway and the lone railway track in the state
A Tripura tribal party,has blockaded the national highway and the lone railway track in the state

Agartala : A Tripura tribal party, which has blockaded the national highway and the lone railway track in the state to push its demand for a separate state, has sought tripartite talks with the central and state governments over its demand.

"We have sought the Governor's intervention and a tri-partite meeting between us, the Centre and state governments to resolve the matter," Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) President Narendra Chandra Debbarma said.

The IPFT has been blocking a national highway and a lone railway line in the state to press for its demand for the third day Wednesday. 

Debbarma told the media: "In Delhi, the National Federation of the New States took up the issue with the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Home Ministry. We also submitted a memorandum to the Tripura Governor (Tathagata Roy) demanding his intervention."

The senior IPFT leaders on Wednesday held a review meeting but they refused to divulge its outcome.

Roy, who was in the national capital to attend a dinner of outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, told IANS over the phone: "I cannot do anything now as I am in Delhi. After returning to Agartala I would look into the issue."

The IPFT, which for years has been agitating for the creation of a separate state, carved out by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) area, the organized blockade on the NH-8, the lifeline of the state, and the lone railway line to the state at Khamting Bari since Monday morning.

The politically important Council constitutes two-thirds of Tripura's 10,491 sq km area, which has 12,16,465 (mostly tribals) of the state's 37 lakh population residing in it.

The Left Front government led by Manik Sarkar, which is strongly opposed to both the demand and the stir, has taken unprecedented security measures in and around the Baramura hill ranges, through which the NH-8 and the railway line passes.

"The agitators, comprising men and women, are peacefully blockading the roads and railway line. No unpleasant incident has been reported so far. We are closely supervising the situation since Sunday, a day before the blockade was started," West District Police chief Abhijit Saptarshi told IANS from the blockade area, 35 km north of here.

Some women agitators were taken ill and were treated by government doctors.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said that in view of the blockade, all trains including those bound for New Delhi and Kolkata were canceled in Tripura.

Debbarma said: "In support of our demand, we would continue the blockade for an indefinite period until the central government gives a positive assurance towards our demand." 

A rally would also be organized in Agartala on the same issue on August 23, the IPFT chief said.

He said: "We had a meeting with Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh on May 17 in New Delhi where we discussed our demands." 

"The Minister told us that the government would consider our demands. If Tripura police want to arrest us they can do that," Debbarma said.

Singh is also Minister of State for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER).

Most of the political parties, including the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have rejected IPFT's demands.

Blaming the BJP for the blockade, CPI-M's West District Secretary Pabitra Kar, said the saffron party did a similar thing in Manipur before the state assembly elections there.

The BJP, however, denied the allegations.

Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Bhanulal Saha while talking to the media said: "The state government once again urged the IPFT to call off the blockade considering the sufferings of the people and the possible crisis of essentials, food grains, and fuels."