Just about nothing, it seems, could have saved them that night. “We can’t stay here,” says Dilip Sarkar. “I lost my father, my younger brother, and his family. The only police protection here are a few Home Guard personnel who are posted about half a mile away. A week after the attacks, survivors of the August 14 massacre at the Kamal Nagar and Barlungapara areas of West Tripura district are leaving their villages in hundreds, in search of shelter, safer, hopefully, than the homes they are leaving behind. The tragedy, for many, it seems, has just begun.
Located on the foothills of Atharomura hill-range, entire Barlungapara is surrounded on three sides by deep jungles, making the area a prime target for militant attacks. Kamal Nagar, the other scene of the twin attacks by militants of, allegedly, the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) on the eve of Independence Day, is yet to get its first electricity connection. What does not seem to have made a difference to the authorities that have now decided to call in the army is the fact that it was only in the month of May this year that a similar militant attack had left at least 32 people dead. That attack was carried out by suspected members of the ATTF, along with National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants.
This time round, the militants attacked Kamal Nagar in separate groups, say villagers. "Suddenly we heard loud knocking on the door … like someone was trying to break it open with an axe. And then there was a volley of gun shots followed by the cries of villagers," said Subhash. “My 12-year-old grandson Babul survived because they didn’t see him hiding behind a wooden box," said Haridasi Debnath. As for 65-year-old Haradhan Sarkar, he hasn’t spoken since the August 14 attacks. "He lost two sons, his daughter in law and five grandchildren,” said Subhash. Some of the victims, had, as a matter of fact moved to Kamal Nagar only recently. "We were in Kalyanpur,” said 61-year-old Jaganbandhu Sarkar, ”but shifted here three years ago because of militant threats there." Sarkar lost his wife Phulbasi in the recent attack.
In the second incident, that took place at Barlungapara, about 20 km from Kamal Nagar, the insurgents fired indiscriminately. "They asked no question. They simply killed," said Swapan Biswas, pointing out blood stains on the mud walls of his ramshackle hut. While Swapan’s wife Jharna Biswas (35), and their children Bapon (9) and Pinki (6) were killed in the attack, his eldest daughter, Bulti, is recovering from bullet wounds. “They didn’t even spare my 6-month-old baby daughter,” said Thakurchand Biswas, whose entire family was wiped out in the attack.
Down from 90 per cent in 1949, indigenous Tripuris comprise barely 30 per cent of the state’s total population of three million. The drop in their population is attributed to the illegal influx of Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh, with militant groups such as the ATTF and NLFT cashing in on the disenchantment. Worse still, unconfirmed allegations say that indegenous Tripuri villagers from neighbouring areas accompanied the militants in the recent attacks. Union Minister of State for Home, Swami Chinmayanand, is expected to visit the state on August 24 to take stock of the situation arising out of the massacre. According to the BJP party sources, the minister, who is also in charge of the North-east, will visit several parts of the state and will hold a series of meetings with the security officials
By Amit Ray Chaudhuri (email@example.com)