Mixed response to Congress’s strike call in Tripura

Agartala, April 18 (IANS) A 24-hour shutdown call given by the opposition Congress on Monday over former health minister Bimal Sinha’s assassination 18 years ago evoked mixed response in Left-ruled Tripura.

The call was given to press for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into Sinha’s assassination and seeking resignation of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

The state’s Left Front government, dominated by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has already rejected both demands.

There was a mixed response to the shutdown call, with attendance in some government offices being thin but little enthusiasm evinced to the call at various markets.

“In some places, shops and business establishments were opened while in most areas across Tripura, including capital Agartala, shutters remained down. Turnout in government, semi-government offices and in banks was thin,” police spokesman Uttam Bhowmik told reporters.

“Most educational institutions also remained closed in view of the strike,” he added.

Most private and government vehicles, including passenger buses, remained off the roads.

Over 500 Congressmen, including state party chief Birajit Sinha, legislator Gopal Roy and Congress leader Pijush Biswas, were arrested from different parts of the state for organising picketing at important locations, the police official said.

The bandh supporters vandalised some vehicles and auto-rickshaws.

Sinha, a former minister, accompanied by party legislator Gopal Roy, said the Yusuf Commission report blamed the Left Front government, Left parties and the chief minister for Bimal Sinha’s assassination. “Hence, Sarkar has no morality to remain the chief minister and home minister of the state.”

The judicial inquiry commission, headed by retired Calcutta High Court Justice M.A. Yusuf, submitted its report to the state government in January 2000. It was presented in the assembly on March 23 last following a Tripura High Court order.

The commission was formed in 1998 to probe the assassination of Bimal Sinha and his brother by the banned National Liberation Front of Tripura on March 31, 1998, at Kamalpur in northern Tripura.

The just concluded budget session of the Tripura assembly witnessed bedlam over the assassination report.

According to the Yusuf Commission report, neither the state government nor Tripura Police were responsible for Bimal Sinha’s killing.

Talking to reporters, Sinha told reporters that Monday’s strike was total and successful.

“People spontaneously observed the strike across the state and accused the Left government of not even protecting its own leader and minister,” Sinha told reporters.

Reacting to the Congress’s allegations, CPI-M central committee member Bijan Dhar said: “Their allegations are wild and a complete lie. If they have any such evidence, why did they not submit the same before the judicial commission when it sought the views of all concerned during the probe?”

Dhar, also a state secretary of the CPI-M, said: “People rejected Monday’s Congress-sponsored illogical strike. Most of the shops, markets and business centres have conducted business normally and presence in government and semi-government offices was as usual.”

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