87 injured after clashes in Agartala

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At least 87 persons, including two photojournalists, were injured on Wednesday after clashes between security personnel and retrenched schoolteachers in Agartala, Tripura.

A large contingent of the Tripura State Rifles (TSR), led by senior police officials, detained the terminated teachers on the 52nd day of their sit-in protest and dismantled their venue outside the City Centre here early in the morning.

Most of the 10,323 teachers, who lost their jobs after a Supreme Court order in May last year due to flaws in the recruitment process during the previous government, were seeking direct employment in government departments. The terminated teachers, under the banner of the Joint Movement Committee (JMC), had started the protest to press their demands.

Trouble started after the TSR, led by senior police officials, raided the protest venue at 5.30 am and detained a few hundred protesters. The detainees were taken to the headquarters of the 2nd battalion of the TSR at R.K. Nagar, 12 km east from here.

The West Tripura district administration simultaneously enforced Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the Agartala Municipal Corporation area to prevent another clash.

However, within three hours of the raid, several hundred terminated teachers arrived at the City Centre and the nearby areas, and started raising slogans against the police action. They damaged three police vehicles, including that of an Additional Superintendent of Police, and clashed with the personnel.

At around 10.30 am, more protesters reached the venue and started moving towards the official residence of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.

They had earlier announced a decision to try and meet the Chief Minister at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to submit their demand.

Despite security deployment, the protesters managed to break two barricades and were stopped 100 metres from the residence of the Chief Minister. Despite repeated appeals from the district administration to disperse from the area, they sat on the road and raised slogans .

The police used water cannons, lobbed tear gas shells and charged batons to break up the crowd. The protesters pelted stones and scattered, but once again assembled outside the City Centre and blocked the road.

Security personnel and protesters fought pitched battles at several points throughout the day, creating panic in the capital city and disturbing normal life.

West Tripura District Magistrate Dr. Shailesh Kumar Yadav in a press briefing confirmed that 87 people, including 23 police officers, were injured in the violence. The Assistant Inspector-General (Law and Order), who was also present during the briefing, said JMC leader Bijoy Krishna Saha had been arrested in connection with a case registered earlier.

Meanwhile, the Congress staged a protest outside the police headquarters in support of the terminated teachers.

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