ATTF calls for poll boycott
A tribal separatist group in India's northeastern state of Tripura has called for a boycott of the February 26 assembly elections and threatened death to those who violated the order.
"Anyone violating the poll boycott would face dire consequences," the outlawed All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) said in a statement.
The ATTF's boycott call comes amid a string of violent attacks by tribal separatists, targeting supporters and members of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
On January 26, twelve people, most of them CPI-M supporters, were killed and eight critically wounded by the banned National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT).
Both ATTF and NLFT are fighting for independent tribal homelands in Tripura and currently operate out of bases in Bangladesh.
The CPI-M blames the opposition coalition of the Congress party and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), a tribal outfit, for the bloody attacks.
"The NLFT has been openly holding meetings in remote areas and coercing people to vote for the Congress-INPT candidates," CPI-M spokesman Gautam Das told IANS by telephone from Tripura's capital Agartala.
During the past one month at least 30 CPI-M members were killed by militants in what is described as "selective attacks" on the ruling party.
ATTF and NLFT accuse the CPI-M of being anti-tribal and promoting and protecting the interests of the "Hindu Bengali settlers".
The genesis of insurgency in Tripura can be traced back to the massive influx of Bengali-speaking refugees when East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was created during partition in 1947.
The tribal people accounted for 95 percent of the Tripura population in the 1931 census but now form just 30 percent.
"We have become a minority in our own land. Unless we achieve our goal for a sovereign homeland, the future of the tribal people would be doomed," the NLFT said.
The militants' belligerent posturing and growing attacks have caused panic in the CPI-M camp.
"The Congress-INPT combine is trying to use NLFT to scare away CPI-M supporters in the run-up to the elections," Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar alleged.
"There is already a sense of fear and panic gripping our supporters although we are trying to resist such attempts."
The Congress denies the charges.
"The CPI-M government in Tripura should resign for failing to ensure security to the people," a Congress party leader said.
Around 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Tripura in the past two decades.
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