‘Greater Tipraland’ sparks fears, leaders say it’s for NE tribals’ progress


Amid all major political parties’ opposition and skeptical stand, tribal party ‘TIPRA Motha’, which in the April 6 elections had captured the politically important Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) defeating the ruling BJP-IPFT alliance, CPI-M and Congress, has passed a resolution in the council on Friday to create a “Greater Tipraland”.

TIPRA Motha claims it is necessary for the socio economic development of indigenous tribals inhabiting in the eight northeastern states and the neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh.

The Greater Tipraland demand of the TIPRA (The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance) Motha (‘Motha’ is a tribal word meaning tribals’ unity) created huge controversy, doubts and fears in the mixed populated Tripura ever since the newly-formed party headed by Tripura’s royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman raised the demand in 2019.

The TTAADC, which has a jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area and is home to over 12,16,000 people, of which 90 per cent are tribals, was constituted under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in June 1985 for the socio-economic development of the tribals, who have always played a significant role in Tripura politics as they constitute one-third of the northeastern state’s four million population.

TTAADC member Runeil Debbarma, who moved the resolution in the council session on Thursday which was adopted the next day, said that the resolution would now be sent to the Governor, the state government and the Centre to create a Greater Tipraland.

“Under the Greater Tipraland concept, a powerful council would be constituted for the all-round socio economic development of the indigenous tribals residing in the eight northeastern states and the neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh. Such councils exist in European countries. We want to resolve the tribals’ basic problems permanently,” Debbarma told IANS.

Royal scion Deb Barman, who was the state President of the Congress in Tripura and is known to be a close friend of Rahul Gandhi, had quit the party in 2019 over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) issue, said that the Greater Tipraland concept is only for the protection of the tribals and their socio economic development.

“The demand is not against any non-tribal community, neither political or for vote bank politics. This is purely for the upliftment of a backward community,” Deb Barman told IANS, adding that his party wants development of the tribals residing in the entire northeast region and the neighbouring countries.

He, however, said that until the Central government accepts the Greater Tipraland demand, their agitation and campaign programme would continue.

The ruling and opposition parties, including the BJP, CPI-M and Congress, before the April 6 elections to the TTAADC had strongly opposed the Greater Tipraland demand of TIPRA Motha and the Tipraland (separate state for the tribals) demand of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), the junior ally of the BJP.

The IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for the creation of a separate state by upgrading the TTAADC.

The leaders of the three national parties are now saying that the TIPRA Motha leadership must explain the concept of Greater Tipraland.

BJP chief spokesman Subrata Chakraborty said that TIPRA Motha supremo Deb Barman must be clear on the formation of Greater Tipraland and only then the BJP’s stand would be announced.

Prominent tribal leader and BJP’s Lok Sabha MP Rebati Tripura said that the Greater Tipraland demand of TIPRA Motha still remained ambiguous and unless they divulge their transparent aim about the creation of Greater Tipraland, they won’t be able to judge their intention.

“Before the April 6 elections to the TTAADC, the TIPRA Motha leaders, especially Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, talked about the tribals. Now a resolution has been passed in the council session saying that Greater Tipraland is for all the people belonging to all caste, creed and religion,” Rebati Tripura told IANS over phone from Delhi.

Reati Tripura, who is also the president of the BJP’s Tripura unit of Janajati Morcha (tribal front), said that TIPRA Motha leaders should also clear the geographical boundary of their proposed Greater Tipraland.

“TIPRA Motha and all other political parties must be sincere and candid about the development of the backward tribals,” said the 45-year-old politician.

Nine TTAADC members and the party supported while an Independent member remained silent when the Greater Tipraland resolution was adopted by the council on Friday.

Tripura state Congress President Pijush Kanti Biswas said that if the proposal of Greater Tipraland is for the socio-economic development of the tribals and if it is allowed by the Constitution, his party has no objection, but the demand is not practical.

Veteran tribal leader Jitendra Chaudhury, who is also the national coordinator of CPM-backed Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and the president of the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad, a frontal body of the CPI-M, said the concept of Greater Tipraland demand is not clear.

“Before the April 6 elections to the TTAADC, Greater Tipraland demand indicated to form a separate state for the tribals. But the TIPRA Motha leaders are now saying that it is for the socio-economic development of the tribals.

“If the TIPRA Motha wants unity among the tribals, and non-tribals and socio-economic development of the tribals, we can support them but before that they must clear their position,” Chaudhury, a former minister and Lok Sabha member, told IANS.

There are 10 autonomous district councils (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, constituted under the Sixth and Seventh Schedule of the Indian Constitution, three each are in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura. The Manipur government had constituted six ADCs for the overall development of the tribals.

Though the Central government had abrogated Article 370 that had accorded special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir, there are many special provisions in the Indian Constitution under Articles 371 (A), 371 (B), 371 (C), 371 (G), 371 (H) and 244 to preserve the traditions, culture and the overall development of the tribals.

Besides, the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system is in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and on December 11, 2019, it was promulgated in Manipur to allow for inward travel of Indian citizens into the ILP enforced areas for a stipulated period with the written permission of the state authority.

Agitations were on since 2019 in Meghalaya to promulgate the ILP, which is in operation under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

The Central government had earlier announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) would not apply to the ILP and the ADC governed areas of the northeastern states.

According to the 2011 census, tribals constitute 60 per cent and above of the population in four of the eight northeastern states – Mizoram (94.4 per cent), Nagaland (86.5 per cent), Meghalaya (86.1 per cent) and Arunachal Pradesh (68.8 per cent) while a reasonable tribal population exists in the remaining four states — Tripura (31.8 per cent), Manipur (35.1 per cent), Sikkim (33.8 per cent) and Assam (12.4 per cent).

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)