The 300-odd people of West Tripura district, who had fled the area after their homes were torched and looted over the alleged molestation of a girl, said Saturday that they were scared to return.
They alleged that the looting and ransacking of their houses in Lalit Bazar locality under Ranirbazar police station area began following instigation of revenue minister and prominent tribal leader N C Debbarma, who had gone there Friday.
Debbarma, president of the Indigenous People’s Front Tripura (IPFT), declined to comment on the charge.
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC was promulgated in the area for 48 hours from 8 am Saturday, Sub-divisional Magistrate Subhasish Bandopaddhyaya said.
Bandopaddhyaya, who is camping in the area, told PTI that at least four houses were set ablaze on Friday and many others ransacked and looted.
Officials have started recording the losses, he said.
There was no problem after the initial confrontation on Thursday over the alleged molestation. But a group of tribal youths started torching and looting houses only after the minister’s visit, said the people who had fled and are now sheltered in a school near their village.
“The ransacking and looting of our houses started only after N C Debbarma visited the spot. He came here at 9 am and looting of our houses started around an hour later. He had instigated the tribal youths to do the misdeeds,” 50-year-old Samena Khatun, who was among of the 300 people, alleged.
“My house was ransacked. The gas cylinder, gas stove and golden jewellery were taken away. My ducks and chickens were looted. All these happened when the minister was present. When we told him about the looting, he said they (attackers) do not listen to him,” Khatun claimed.
Another women, Sulekha Khatun (45) said, “My house was set ablaze, my belongings looted. I do not want to return. Let the police shoot me dead. I will not return.”
The village is a stone’s throw from a camp of state paramilitary Tripura State Rifles (TSR) and villagers alleged that they did not act during the attack of the village.
“Our cattle and chickens were looted, house ransacked. How far is the TSR camp from our house? It is not even 100 yards. Everything happened before the police and the paramilitary (forces) and the minister. I will not return home in such a condition,” said Hajar Banu (85).
The incident started when a girl, along with her boyfriend, had come to Ranirbazar area on Thursday from a nearby locality to see Durga idols there and four youths allegedly molested her and snatched her mobile phone.
The two went back to their locality and then returned with a large group of people who tried to attack the houses of those who reportedly molested the girl.
The four had fled by then but were arrested on Friday.
The attack continued on Friday and, on receipt of the information, Debbarma went there to pacify the situation but it could not be controlled immediately and around 300 members of 61 families fled.
District administration provided them food and a large contingent of the police and TSR personnel have deployed in the area.
“Security for the villagers would continue so long as the villagers are afraid,” the sub-divisional magistrate said.
When contacted, the IPFT president said, “We will hold a press conference and tell you about the incident.”
On the villagers’ complained that looting and ransacking started in his presence, he declined to comment.
The IPFT’s major partner BJP claimed the incident was the result of a conspiracy.
“We want punishment for both the molesters and those who looted and torched houses. No guilty should be spared.” BJP spokesperson Ashoke Sinha said.
Senior CPI(M) leader Pabitra Kar said the administration should try its best to restore normalcy at the earliest and the guilty should not go unpunished.