Tripura's Greater Tipraland demand: Deprivation or political mileage? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Tripura's Greater Tipraland demand: Deprivation or political mileage?

ByPriyanka Deb Barman
Dec 05, 2023 07:05 PM IST

A call for separate statehood for indigenous people has helped political parties expand their foothold even as it draws attention to the demands for development

It started with an allegation of deprivation.

Agartala, Sep 30 (ANI): Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha Party supporters stage a protest demanding a separate Greater Tipraland state for tribals, in Agartala on Saturday. (ANI Photo)(Papan Das) PREMIUM
Agartala, Sep 30 (ANI): Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha Party supporters stage a protest demanding a separate Greater Tipraland state for tribals, in Agartala on Saturday. (ANI Photo)(Papan Das)

The Left Front, which was in power from 1978 to 2018 (barring Congress’s single term in 1988-93) blamed the erstwhile royals for depriving the indigenous people during their rule that only ended in 1949 after a merger agreement with India.

Political parties including the Congress, Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised similar allegations against the Left Front.

Between 1980 and the late 2000s, armed indigenous groups militated against this, before the former Left Front government brought the issue under control in the past decade.

Recently, Tripura’s opposition party TIPRA Motha held discussions on the development of the indigenous community with the ministry of home affairs’ advisor on Northeast, AK Mishra. Part of those discussions included the formation of a separate state — the party’s founder Pradyot Kishore Debbarma, who is also the current head of the state’s royal family, placed forward his demands, thus throwing the ball into the Centre’s court.

“In the meeting, we placed our demand for Greater Tipraland. Now the Central government has to get back to us. The ball is in their court now. Even if they have some separate solution to our demand and give us written assurances, we shall consider it,” Pradyot said after meeting Mishra on November 28.

The TIPRA Motha leadership had met Mishra in New Delhi in July to discuss their pending demands.

“We placed our demands earlier during our meeting in Delhi in July. He assured us to forward it to the Central government,” said TIPRA Motha senior leader and opposition leader Animesh Debbarma.

Besides a new state, the party has also asked for direct funding from the Centre for the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) and help in the development of the Kokborok language, which is the lingua franca of a majority of the indigenous population.

Kokborok was recognised officially as a state language in 1979. The then Left Front government constituted two commissions led by former legislator Shyama Charan Tripura and linguist Pabitra Sarkar to come to a fair conclusion about the script to be used for the language which is largely steeped in oral tradition. Though both commissions mandated Roman script, eventually Bengali script was used. There was even an attempt to introduce the Devanagari script for the language after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2018.

Hours after swearing in the second term of the BJP-Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) government this March, BJP Northeast coordinator Sambit Patra announced that an interlocutor would be appointed to discuss indigenous development.

When TIPRA Motha said that AK Mishra was the interlocutor appointed by the Centre, the state government denied having any information about it.

The BJP has largely stuck to its slogan, ‘Ek Tripura Shrestha Tripura’ but is also in support of the development of the indigenous people.

“Our party is working for the upliftment of the indigenous people. And if you ask about Greater Tipraland, let them (TIPRA Motha) clarify it first because we feel that they themselves are confused about it,” said BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee.

The Communist Party (Marxist) however argues that the demand for a separate state is an effort at gaining political mileage for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

“No notification was issued before his (AK Mishra) visit to the state. We have also heard that the chief minister earlier denied any knowledge of appointing any interlocutor. We feel that this is a drama before the Lok Sabha polls. Some demands may be fulfilled with this meeting, but basic problems of the indigenous community are not solved,” said CPI-M state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury.

“We also feel that the Centre should directly send funds to the ADC. If the fund comes to them, there will be developmental works for the ADC. AK Mishra met with the TIPRA Motha here. Let's see,” said Congress legislator Sudip Roy Barman.

“The entire thing is a political gimmick. This is an attempt to consolidate the indigenous votes together as the East Lok Sabha seat is very crucial for both the parties,” said veteran political expert Swapan Bhattacharjee.

Another political analyst feels that Greater Tipraland demand is an “implausible dream.”

“First of all, it is unclear whether the government-appointed AK Mishra as an interlocutor. Secondly, the ruling party doesn’t want to lose any seat in the Lok Sabha polls and they want support from the TIPRA Motha. There might be some negotiation between them. Let’s see what happens next,” said senior political analyst Jayanta Bhattacharjee.

Who are the TIPRA?

 

The Indigenous People's Regional Alliance (TIPRA) was constituted in 2021 with the agenda of creating a Greater Tipraland, a proposed separate state for the indigenous population who are staying in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (ADC)-governed areas of Tripura and other neighbouring states including Assam, Mizoram and parts of neighbouring country Bangladesh. Later, different indigenous-based parties and social organisations including the National Conference of Tripura (NCT), Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), Tipraland State Party, IPFT - Tipraha — a breakaway faction of the state's ruling party — among others merged to form TIPRA Motha party.

Within two months of its formation, TIPRA Motha contested and won the TTAADC polls replacing the Left Front that had run the tribal council for the previous four terms. The tribal party later contested the 60-seated Assembly polls in February and emerged as the main opposition party by winning 13 seats.

The TIPRA Motha's Greater Tipraland is an extended version of IPFT's Tipraland which was a proposed tribal state comprising ADC-governed areas alone while Pradyot Kishore's Greater Tipraland proposed more territorial inclusion beyond the tribal council. While the proposal initially included areas beyond Tripura, it was later revised to include a few villages outside the ADC.

Greater Tipraland is essentially a separate statehood demand for the indigenous people and gained popularity when the IPFT failed to fulfil its promise to the population living in the hilly areas. Meanwhile, Pradyot's political party expanded its foothold in the indigenous-dominated areas keeping their core demand in the forefront.

The TIPRA Motha held a mass gathering in October in the presence of Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma who extended his support to the demand — a significant show of unity and solidarity in the Northeast.

History of statehood demand

 

With the influx of non-indigenous refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the indigenous population dropped from 52.89% in 1901 to 28.44% in 1981. During the Left government's rule in 1978, an extremist group led by Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl first raised the demand for Swadhin Tripura (liberated Tripura). He later became the chief of an indigenous political party, the INPT which was founded in 2002 with the merger of IPFT and Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS).

The IPFT was founded in 1997 but faded away in 2001. In 2009, NC Debbarma revived the party keeping the demand of Tipraland, a separate statehood for the indigenous people, intact.

The TTAADC, formed in 1982, encompasses nearly 70% of the state's geographical area. It is spread across eight districts of the state. One-third of the state's population from 19 different indigenous communities stays in the TTAADC. Though it has a separate council and its own budget, it receives funds from the state government allocated in the state budget. The Tripura legislative assembly unanimously passed the TTAADC Bill on March 23, 1979. It was constituted on January 15, 1982, through secret ballot voting. Later, the Indian Constitution was amended by a bill later passed by the Parliament on August 23, 1984, to introduce the Sixth Schedule, which provides for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and safeguards the rights of the tribal population in these states.

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