EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 20/06/97
UA 52/97 Fear for safety 17 February 1997
INDIAResidents of Agartala and Khowai sub-divisions in the north-eastern state
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of civilian residents of
Agartala and Khowai sub-divisions in the north-eastern state of Tripura, as
the government responds to the deliberate and arbitrary killings by an armed
According to reports, members of the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), comprising
tribal people seeking the expulsion of "foreigners" from the state, began armed
attacks on 13 February against ethnic Bengalis living in villages and refugee
camps in the west of the state. In ATTF attacks on 16 February, at least 31
civilians were killed and over 200 houses were set alight. Despite the
existence of police posts nearby, police personnel apparently failed to
intervene during the attacks.
In the aftermath of the killings, at approximately 3pm on 16 February, the
Government of Tripura invoked the Disturbed Areas Act in six police station
areas. Three of these police stations, Sidhai, Bakatakarjala and Jirania are
in Agartala sub-division, while three others, Kalyanpur, Khowai and Teliamura
are in Khowai sub-division in the west of Tripura. This means that the Armed
Forces (Special Powers) Act, which grants sweeping powers to shoot to kill
and for arrest without warrant, is enforced in these areas.
A statement issued by the Government of Tripura on 16 February empowered the
armed forces, including the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border
Security Force (BSF), amongst others, to "fire upon or otherwise use force
even to the causing of death, after due warning against any person acting in
contravention of law or any order in force prohibiting the assembly of five
or more persons or carrying of weapons."
In a 24-hour period, since the notification of the Disturbed Areas Act, reports
indicate at least four suspected members of the ATTF have been killed in security
force operations, that 56 people have been arrested and charged, while a further
24 detained for interrogation.
Amnesty International is concerned that the official sanction to shoot to kill
given by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, will lead to the excessive
use of force by security forces, and the killing of civilians and those suspected
to be members of armed opposition groups, in violation of their right to life.
It is further concerned that, using the provisions of the Act, arbitrary
detentions may take place.
Amnesty International is also appealing to armed opposition groups active in
Tripura state to adhere to the standards of international humanitarian law
and to refrain from the deliberate and arbitrary killing of civilians.
One of the seven states comprising the north-east region of India, Tripura
has a border with the Indian state of Mizoram on the east and is surrounded
on the north, west and south by Bangladesh.