Tripura tense, Press Council seeks report on journalist’s killing

Agartala, Sep 23 (IANS) The Press Council of India (PCI) on Saturday sought a report from the Tripura government on the killing of a TV journalist on Wednesday, while several media organisations have demanded a CBI probe into the murder.

During mob violence Shantanu Bhowmik, a 28-year-old journalist, was brutally killed allegedly by tribal-based party cadres at Mandai in West Tripura district.

“The PCI has sought a report from the Tripura government about the killing of the journalist while discharging his professional duties. After getting the report from the state government, the PCI would take a final decision on the issue,” Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) general secretary Pranab Sarkar told the media here.

Seven journalists’ and media organisations on Saturday took out a rally here and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the killing of the journalist.

Subal Kumar Dey, President of the Tripura Newspaper Society, has demanded a white paper from the Tripura government on the attacks on journalists over the past some years in the state.

Meanwhile, tension prevailed on Saturday in parts of West Tripura and Khowai districts where a tribal-based party has carried out a series of attacks since Tuesday, including the one in which the 28-year-old journalist was killed.

Police said that a 29-year-old driver Jiban Debnath of a private vehicle was missing since Wednesday. The security forces continued their search operation to rescue the driver.

“A journalist of a Delhi-based newspaper had hired a private vehicle and gone to Khumulwng along with a local guide. Some members of the IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) attacked them there and then fled. The IPFT activists also burnt down the vehicle,” a police official said.

He said that while the journalist and his local guide reported to the police the next day (Thursday), the driver was still missing.

The official said when a police team was rushed to Khumulwng, headquarters of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), the IPFT activists attacked them and burnt down the police vehicle.

Since Tuesday, prohibitory orders have been in force in more than 10 places in West Tripura and Khowai districts, including violence-hit Mandai, 35 km north of here.

Contingents of the Central Reserve Police Force, Tripura State Rifles and the Tripura Police have been deployed in the trouble-torn mixed population areas.

Mobile-internet services in Tripura have been suspended until Sunday night as a precautionary measure, and top officials of the state are monitoring the situation.

Wednesday’s incidents in West Tripura and Khowai districts are an upshot of Tuesday’s violent attacks by another party’s activists in several parts of the state.

On Tuesday, over 60 members of the ruling CPI-M’s tribal wing Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) were injured in separate attacks allegedly by rival IPFT cadres at 12 places.

TRUGP President Jitendra Chowdhury said: “The IPFT members attacked the TRUGP men and women when the latter were coming in vehicles to Agartala from different places in Tripura to attend a party rally here.”

Deputy Inspector General of police Arindam Nath said that so far 13 IPFT members have been arrested for their involvement in the attacks.

The IPFT and the Twipraland State Party have since 2009 been agitating for upgrading the existing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) to a separate tribal state.

The TTAADC has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq.km area that is home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals.

Ahead of the assembly elections in Tripura, due in February next year, the separate tribal-based state demand has snowballed into a major political issue. Tribals play a crucial political role in the state, with 20 of the 60 assembly seats reserved for them.

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