The Communist Party of India-Marxist governed the northeastern state of Tripura for the last 25 years. This changed on March 3with the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Jisnu Deb Burman being elected the new Chief Minister of Tripura. The BJP’s alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura ensured a combined two-thirds majority in the legislative assembly for Tripura, which was previously a political stronghold of the Left.
Just days after the CPI(M) was defeated at the polls in Tripura despite winning 46 percent of the vote, mobs of BJP members pulled down two statues of the revered Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in the towns of Sabroom and Belonia.
Since the election results, a reign of terror has been unleashed on the Left parties and their supporters by the now ruling-party BJP members and its IPFT allies. Some 400 offices of the Left parties in Tripura have been attacked, 85 of them burned down, 315 of the offices forcibly occupied. But the BJP’s terror campaign does not stop there. The homes of 1,704 Left members and supporters were attacked, and 200 of the houses set on fire.
In response, thousands of communists across India took to the streets protesting the destruction of Lenin’s statues and condemning the vigilante violence of the BJP goons.
Realignment of political forces in Tripura
The CPI(M) is the dominant party in the Left Front, a political alliance between the CPI(M), the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All India Forward Bloc, that had won all except one election in Tripura since 1977.
The people-centered policies of the Left Front explain why it had won five successive election terms in Tripura. The literacy rate for Tripura in 1971 was a mere 30.98 percent. Today, due to the Left Front government’s mass education program, Tripura stands at the top with a literacy rate of 94.65 percent, the highest in the country, even surpassing Kerala’s 93.61 percent (a state that has also historically been governed by the CPI(M)).
Manik Sarkar, the outgoing communist Chief Minister of 20 years, was named “India’s poorest chief minister,” for maintaining a simple working-class lifestyle in a capitalist country like India where politicians in power are used to luxurious homes and lavish living while hundreds of millions of Indians live in extreme poverty.
The BJP’s win in Tripura can be attributed to its tactical alliance with the IPFT, which allowed it to sweep in 33 percent of the total Assembly seats reserved for members of tribal (indigenous) groups as part of affirmative action policies. The liberal middle-class of Tripura heavily voted for the BJP-IPFT, blaming mass unemployment, a characteristic of the capitalist economic system, on the policies of the Left Front. During his time in power, Manik Sarkar, the representative of the CPI(M) and Left Front, refused to meet with CEOs of IT companies and refused to sell out Tripura to the for-profit interests of large corporations.
While the upper-class strata of Tripura paints the Left Front government as “anti-development” and “anti-progress,” really what their crocodile tears are about is the prevention of unrestricted investment and development of Tripura at the expense of driving down wages and scrapping hard-won rights and protections for the working-class. It is very telling that the rural lower-caste Bengalis and many poor farmers continue to extend their support to the Left.
The game plan of the right
Despite the defeat the Left in Tripura took in the recent election, it still remains a strong force in the state. This is precisely why the BJP-IPFT coalition forces are resorting to fascistic tactics and the use of mass violence to reap fear in the minds of the people of Tripura, to keep them from joining the resistance to both the economic and ideological onslaught of the Hindu-supremacist neoliberal BJP.
Let’s not forget that the ruling-party in India today, the BJP, originates from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a fascistic paramilitary force with over 50,000 units all across India that pushes for the Hinduization of India, upholds the despicable caste system, the repression of women and reactionary nationalism. This relationship between the BJP and the RSS is why the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, does not condemn the more than a dozen cases of lynchings, mostly against Muslims, or address the violence inflicted on oppressed people by cow-vigilante anti-beef eating groups.
These recent terror attacks of the BJP-RSS in Tripura are by no means uncoordinated or arbitrary attacks by peripheral forces, but are occuring in a centralized way under the BJP-IPFT leadership.
Upon the toppling of one of Lenin’s statues in Tripura, the BJP justified this rogue act by claiming that the statue was taken down by those who were being “oppressed” by the Left! In the same vein, liberal politicians are proving themselves to be the cowards that they are by condemning “violence on both sides,” when the lives of those fighting for equality and justice in society are under threat.
Progressive forces in India and across the world must condemn the violence of the BJP forces for what it is: an attempt to crush and debilitate the Left in Tripura by any means necessary while the BJP is in power. This BJP terror campaign extends beyond Tripura, and is simply a part of the larger anti-communist witch hunt at the national level.
Earlier this month, the CPI(M) played a significant role in mobilizing over 35,000 farmers for a 180 km long march in the Southwestern state of Maharastra against the ruling BJP and its neoliberal policies with the rise in farmers’ suicides that number in the tens of thousands every year. This action forced the government to grant many of the farmers’ demands.
Unwilling and incapable of addressing the ills plaguing the lives of the Indian working-class and oppressed, the capitalist BJP-RSS turns to terror at every turn to remain in power.
Not only is the BJP unfit to govern any part of India given its track record, what the BJP-RSS wish for is to wipe out communists from India. As Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan remarked, let it be known to the world that communists will not cease to exist in India by pulling down a few statues. So long as the terror of capitalism and the fascist ideologies that stem from it reign in India, the case for socialism will remain!