Tripura’s tribal politics intensify due to separate state demand
Fueled by the demand for a separate state for the indigenous communities of Tripura, tribal politics intensified in the northeastern state led by the BJP.
Among the tribal parties that have allied for a separate state are fierce political rivals TIPRA Motha (Regional Progressive Indigenous Tipraha Alliance) and IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura), the ally of the BJP. Pushing for a separate state for the Tripura tribes for their “survival and interests”, they even recently staged a sit-in at Jantar Mantar in the nation’s capital.
Ranging from anti-monarchical agitation to the armed struggle for self-determination, to democratic agitation for a separate state now – Tripura’s tribal politics have come a long way in the past seven decades since independence.
The IPFT, which has two ministers in the Tripura government led by Biplab Deb, had championed the cause of âTipraland,â a separate state project for the Tripura tribes, in 2009. The demand catapulted the party to winning 8 seats in 2018. Election to the Assembly, which it contested as a pre-electoral coalition partner of the BJP.
In February this year, Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarman, a 43-year-old descendant of the former royal family of Tripura – who had resigned as president of the state Congress in 2019 – floated the TIPRA Motha. Calling for “thansa” or unity between tribal outfits, he gave the slogan “Puila jaati, Ulobo jaati” (community first, community last), which led to the amalgamation of several tribal outfits. with his party. The Manikya royal family has always played an important role in the politics of Tripura.
In the elections of the Autonomous District Council of Tribal Areas of Tripura (TTAADC) in April this year, the TIPRA Motha challenged on the board of its demand for “”Great TipralandAnd swept the polls.
the TIPRA Motha won 18 of 28 seats in TTAADC polls, obtaining 37.43 percent of the vote. Its ally, the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) obtained 9.30% of the vote,
The TTAADC covers almost 70 percent of the total area of ââTripura. It has a set of constitutional protection guarantees for its 19 officially notified tribal communities, including legal protection of tribal lands. One-third of the state’s population lives within its belt.
The âGrand Tipralandâ of Debbarman is essentially an extension of the demand for the IPFT of Tipraland, a separate state for the Tripura tribes to be carved out from the territory of the TTAADC. His claim is for a separate state for Tiprasa – involving legal tribal and non-tribal residents of Tripura (illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a major problem in the state). The proposed Greater Tipraland also seeks to include tribals spread across different states in India like Assam, Mizoram, etc., and even âhelpâ the Tripuri tribals living in parts of Bangladesh through socio-cultural development.
The tribal groups’ demand for a separate state appears to stem primarily from the perceived anxiety of indigenous communities over the demographic change in Tripura, which has reduced them to a minority. This has been attributed to the displacement of the Bengalis from the former East Pakistan between 1947 and 1971. From 63.77% in 1881, the tribal population of Tripura fell to 31.80% in 2011. In the decades that followed, ethnic conflicts and insurgency erupted. the state, which shares a nearly 860 km-long border with Bangladesh.
The emergence of TIPRA Motha in the politics of Tripura could be attributed to two reasons: the popularity of a member of the royal family and the political vacuum in the tribal space of the state following the debacle of the left led by the CPM during the legislative elections of 2018 and the rout of the IPFT. in TTAADC polls.
While TIPRA Motha’s call for Greater Tipraland resonated among much of the tribes, the fault lines between various tribal outfits also surfaced.
On December 16, Debbarman was heckled by activists from the Popular Front of Tripura (TPF) as clashes erupted between them and TIPRA Motha supporters after the TPF organized an unauthorized rally in Khumulwng, headquarters of the TTAADC led by TIPRA.
The TPF is a small tribal organization that seeks to identify and deport illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in addition to reviewing the NRC in the state. He now faces a boycott call from the Twipra Student Federation (TSF), a tribal student body, following Debbarman’s heckling.
As competition between the various tribal parties intensifies over the demand for a separate state, the issue is expected to shape Tripura’s politics in the months to come, with the next assembly polls slated for 2023.
Although Debbarman denies that his state demand centers on ethnic lines, saying it arose out of a sense of alienation among the tribes after decades of underdevelopment, the question is now forcing national parties – which are not in favor of splitting Tripura to carve out a place a separate state – to rework their strategies.
In the TTAADC polls, which it also contested in alliance with the IPFT, the BJP fought with 11 seats and won 9, garnering 18.72 percent of the vote against 7.87 percent of the vote share in 2015. Its tribal ally IPFT, however, is doing well. disastrously in these polls, making a blank.
The BJP had placed the responsibility of not winning the ADC on the IPFT. In an attempt to craft a counter-narrative against the state demand, the ruling party also gained approval for the Tripura ADC to be transformed into a territorial council.
The CPM-led Left Front, which was ousted from power in 2018 Assembly polls after its 25-year consecutive reign, continues to see a steady erosion of its base of support among various communities, including tribes. .
The Congress party continues to remain in the political desert of the state.
Commenting on its poor performance in the ADC polls, an IPFT spokesperson said: âUps and downs are common in politics. But our ideology is the best. TIPRA Motha just changed our show and started their movement. It is clear that the Constitution has no direct provisions to regulate this kind of state outside the territory of India. Our request for Tipraland is a realistic and constitutionally possible request. Our support base will be reborn again.
Of the 60 seats in the Tripura Assembly, 20 are reserved for tribes.
The BJP is expected to keep its alliance options open for the 2023 polls. She maintained that her key stake will remain development.
The left says it would challenge the 2023 elections to “restore democracy and the rule of law.” Tripura CPM secretary Jitendra Chaudhury, while blaming both the BJP and IPFT for political violence in the state, says his party would emerge victorious from all tribal seats in the 2023 polls.
After his party swept away the TTAADC polls, Debbarman became a major player in Tripura politics. We have to see how he negotiates the delicate political landscape of the state as the next Assembly polls approach, in particular at his request for Grand Tipraland.