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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Tripura journalist murder: Tribal body close to BJP alleges CPI-M conspiracy before polls

The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) is facing the heat for its alleged involvement in the murder of television journalist Shantanu Bhowmik .

india Updated: Sep 22, 2017 13:12 IST
Priyanka Deb Barman
Priyanka Deb Barman
Hindustan Times
Journalists at a road blockade set up over the killing of journalist Shantanu Bhowmick in Agartala.
Journalists at a road blockade set up over the killing of journalist Shantanu Bhowmick in Agartala.(AFP)


The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), facing the heat for its alleged involvement in the murder of television journalist Shantanu Bhowmik on Wednesday, has charged the ruling CPI-M with conspiracy to discredit the tribal party ahead of assembly polls early next year.

The IPFT’s reaction to clashes between IPFT and CPI-M’s tribal front Ganamukti Parishad (GMP) in Mandwai area that led to 28-year-old Bhowmik’s death has come in the wake of revelations that the slain journalist was a member of the leftist Students’ Federation of India and had links to the communist party.

The IPFT, which broke away from a Congress-aligned tribal political party, has been gravitating towards the Bharatiya Janata Party soon after reviving a decades-old demand for statehood for 19 indigenous tribes of Tripura earlier this year.

Mandwai, in Jirania subdivision of Tripura West district, is 28 km from state capital Agartala. The IPFT-GMP clashes had started in Khowai district on Tuesday and spilled over to adjoining Tripura West, specifically Mandwai, on Wednesday.

The IPFT claimed the CPI(M) has been itching for violence since 5,000 indigenous families left GMP to join IPFT after a highway blockade to press for Twipraland state in July this year.

“The CPI-M is jittery because it has started losing ground in the hilly areas for not being able to bring development for the indigenous communities. The journalist’s death was unfortunate and we demand impartial probe, preferably by CBI, to find out the truth. The CPI-M has hatched a conspiracy to spoil the image of IPFT by involving us in the murder,” Mewar Kumar Jamatia, IPFT general secretary, said.

According to IPFT, communist activists had destroyed their flags and festoons in Mandwai a day after Tuesday’s clash with GMP in certain parts of Khowai district. The IPFT blocked an arterial road in protest for two hours.

“CPI-M cadre attacked the IPFT youth as they were about to end the blockade. Many of our members were injured in the clash, two of them sustaining bullet injuries. But the media did not cover these cases,” Jamatia said.

CPI-M state secretary Bijan Dhar downplayed Bhowmik’s leftist link. “It is true Shantanu had a communist background during his student life. But he was a full-time journalist and was killed on duty. He may have been attacked and killed because of his background, but the murder should be treated as that of a journalist and not a party member,” he said.

Bhowmik worked for Dinraat, a local Bengali news channel whose editor is the CPI-M secretary’s brother Samir Dhar.

On IPFT’s demand for CBI probe, Dhar said: “It is not surprising that IPFT and BJP have raised the same demand. They are aeki goaler goru (Benglai phrase meaning birds of the same feather) and since BJP backed the IPFT-triggered violence, it is obvious they will seek the same method of investigation.”

BJP’s state vice-president Subal Bhowmik had on Thursday evening demanded a CBI probe into the journalist’s murder. “The Left is deeply worried about the growing popularity of BJP. They are losing control over the people and are accusing us of engineering violence in the past few days,” he said.

“Manik Sarkar’s Left Front government, which has created a divide between the tribal and non-tribal people in the state, has been trying to gain political mileage from the journalist’s death,” he added.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 13:12 IST

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