Tripura tribal parties gear up to oppose Citizenship Bill

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Agartala, March 6 (IANS) Ahead of the assembly elections in Left Front-ruled Tripura next year, two main tribal-based parties are all set to launch their agitation in the northeastern state against the central government’s Citizenship Bill, among other issues.

The decision follows separate demonstrations by the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) and the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi earlier this month to press for their demands.

Tribal population plays a crucial role in politics in ethnically-mixed Tripura, as a third of the 60 assembly seats are reserved for them — as is one of the two Lok Sabha seats.

In a significant political development, the IPFT and the INPT, along with another tribals party — National Conference of Tripura (NCT) — in mid-January formed an All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPF) to oppose the central government’s Citizenship Bill introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in Parliament.

The ATIRPF observed a 12-hour shutdown in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas on February 8.

The TTAADC, a constitutional, elected council, was formed in 1987 to protect and safeguard the political, economic and cultural interests of the tribals.

Even separately, the IPFT has been vigorously agitating for the creation of a separate state, carved out by upgrading the TTAADC areas.

“An IPFT delegation during the demonstration in Delhi, held during March 1 to 3, met Union Minister Jitendra Singh on March 2 and discussed the Citizenship Bill and the separate state issue. The minister told the delegation that he would take up the matter with the ministries concerned,” IPFT President Narendra Chandra Debbarma told IANS here on Monday.

He said that Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) and the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office (PMO), held a meeting with the IPFT leaders in his DoNER Ministry office and discussed the TTAADC affairs.

“(After demonstration in Delhi) now we will take our agitation forward in Tripura in support of our demands,” Debbarma said.

The INPT also held a sit-in demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in support of its eight-point charter of demands.

Its demands include more power to the TTAADC, promulgation of inner-line permit regulation to protect indigenous tribals and recognition to tribal language — Kokborok — in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, rasing the reservation of seats for the tribals in the 60-member Tripura assembly to 50 per cent, and withdrawl of the Citizenship Bill.

“INPT’s central executive committee would hold meeting here on March 17 to chalk out the next agitational programme in support of our demands,” INPT spokesman Srota Ranjan Khisa told IANS.

He said, “Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju informed the INPT delegation in Delhi that the central government is now on the job to provide more autonomy to all the autonomous district councils (ADCs) in the northeastern states.”

There are 10 ADCs in northeast India, facilitating the socio-economic development of tribals, who make up 27-28 per cent of the region’s total population of around 45.58 million.

Of the 10 ADCs, formed as per the constitutional provisions, three each are in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura. Besides, in Manipur there are six ADCs set up under the administrative decisions of the state government.

Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections in Tripura, Congress, Trinamool Congress and the BJP, who have poor base among the tribals, are trying to forge electoral alliances with the INPT, IPFT and the National Conference of Tripura (NCT), who constitute one third of Tripura’s 37 lakh population.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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