Rajnath Singh
Rajnath Singh

Agartala:  A tribal-based political party has stepped up its agitation for a separate state to be carved out of Tripura.

The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which launched a stir for the division of the state Aug 23 last year, held a massive rally here last month.

It has now announced that the party members would go to Delhi to meet union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram to press for the demand.

The IPFT organised a 72-hour hunger strike in Delhi Dec 10-13, 2013. It also held a meeting with officials of the union home ministry Dec 13 on the issue.

The IPFT has been for many years demanding a separate state, to be carved out of Tripura, by upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).

The state’s ruling Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is now at the helm of affairs of the TTAADC, which was formed by amending the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in 1985.

IPFT president Narandra Chandra Debbarma accused the Left Front government of creating the TTAADC only as a “lame-duck institution” – having no real powers – for the development of the backward indigenous people.

“The fundamental problems of the people have not been solved. Tribals continue to lose their lands. Even the state of affairs of the Kokborok language of the indigenous tribal people is miserable,” Debbarma told IANS.

He said the tribals were once a majority in Tripura and are said to have been living in the state for more than 5,000 years, but their situation is now precarious.

“We submitted an eight-page memorandum to the (union) home ministry last year. The ministry officials said our demand would be considered positively. Talks between the leaders of IPFT and the central government would continue,” IPFT chief said.

The Left Front, the main opposition Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other political parties have strongly opposed the IPFT’s demand.

They said the demand would encourage outlawed militant groups to further revive their strength in the state.

The CPI-M’s two tribal youth wings – Tribal Youth Federation (TYF) and Tribal Students Union (TSU) – organised a mammoth colourful rally here Wednesday strongly denouncing the separate state demand.

CPI-M spokesman and senior party leader Gautam Das said: “A small state like Tripura cannot be divided further. They (IPFT) are merely trying to regain relevance in the state politics by raising such an impractical demand.”

“The IPFT’s demand would only encourage the demands of the extremists and inimical forces,” he told IANS.

“Tripura’s tribals are much better off than the tribals living elsewhere in the country. It was evident from the central government assessment and official documents and also the opinion of many scholars.”

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has categorically rejected the demand, saying that the Left Front government would not allow any attempt to divide the state. He also said that he would resist any such move with all his might.

Congress leader Ashish Saha said his party strongly opposed the demand.

“Tribals in Tripura are deprived in many vital segments… Some political parties are exploiting the sentiment of the tribals,” Saha told IANS.

The Congress, the BJP and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) – also a tribal based party – while opposing the demand for a separate state said more powers should be given to the TTAADC and development of the tribal areas should be stepped up.

State BJP president Sudhindra Dasgupta said: “Our party strongly opposed the separate state demand in Tripura, but we want more development of the remote and hilly areas and allround development of the tribals.”

Tripura’s two militant groups – National Liberation Front of Tripura and All Tripura Tiger Force – have been seeking secession of Tripura from India. Both the banned groups have their bases in neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The TTAADC, which has been playing a key role in the socio-economic development of tribals, has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s geographical area of 10,491.69 sq km.

Over 12.16 lakh people, more than 90 percent of whom are tribals, reside in the areas administered by the council. Notably, tribals constitute a third of Tripura’s total of 3.7 million people.

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

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