Tripura Congress chief's brother held with arms

Agartala, Jan 30 (IANS) Weeks before the crucial assembly elections in the country's lone Left-ruled state of Tripura, the state Congress president's elder brother was arrested for possessing arms.

Both the main opposition Congress and the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) have been organising protest rallies across the state, forcing security forces to deploy additional troopers in sensitive places.

Tripura Congress president Sudip Roy Barman's elder brother and former chief minister Samir Ranjan Barman's eldest son Sandip Roy Barman, along with two of his employees, was arrested Monday night with arms, ammunition, Bangladeshi currency and incriminating documents relating to militants.

The men were arrested from a brick kiln by the central para-military Assam Rifles.

The Assam Rifles later handed over the arrested people to police, who released Sandip Roy Barman and one of his employees subsequently.

The manager of the brick kiln, which is owned by Barman, was sent by a local court to 12 days' custody.

The Congress, which immediately launched protest rallies across the state, termed the arrests a "conspiracy" by the ruling CPI-M.

The CPI-M said the incident proved that the Congress was planning to unleash violence before the elections, to gain electoral mileage.

The Left party criticised the police for releasing Barman hours after his arrest. It demanded a probe into the matter.

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, addressing a gathering in northern Tripura Wednesday, asked: "Sandip Roy Barman might be a trader of bricks. But why are arms, militants' ransom receipts and Bangladeshi currency kept in the office of the brick kiln?"

"The Congress has forged an electoral alliance with the INPT (Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura). The INPT is the political wing of underground extremists," said Sarkar, also a CPI-M politiburo member.

The chief minister's allegation was denied by both the Congress and INPT leaders.

Demanding the re-arrest of the Congress leader's brother, the CPI-M in a letter to the Election Commission apprehended that like in the previous polls in Tripura, extremist outfits NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) and ATTF (All Tripura Tiger Force) may resort to violence this time too, in favour of the Congress and the INPT alliance.

CPI-M state secretary Bijan Dhar in his letter to Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath demanded appropriate steps so that the police authorities do not bow to pressure to release the persons arrested with arms and incriminating papers.

Tripura, the country's only Left-ruled state now, is set for polling Feb 14.

Two other northeastern states, Meghalaya and Nagaland, will go to the polls Feb 23.

Results of the elections to all three states' assemblies (60-seat each) will be announced Feb 28.

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