Agartala: The ‘Greater Tipraland’ separate statehood demand seeking to carve out tribal areas of Tripura is likely to dominate the political discourse in the assembly elections in the northeastern state due early next year.
The Tripura Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance or TIPRA Motha, a regional political party led by royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarma, seeks a separate state for the indigenous people of Tripura.
The party swept the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections held in April last year, winning 18 of the 28 seats over the ‘Greater Tipraland’ demand in a direct contest with the ruling BJP-IPFT alliance.
The statehood demand may affect results in 20 assembly seats, where tribals hold considerable clout electorally, in the 60-member House.
Debbarma said that his party is willing to forge an alliance with any national party that provides a constitutional solution to the demand of the indigenous people of the Tripura, who form one-third of the state’s estimated 40 lakh population and live in the tribal council area, which constitutes two-thirds of the state’s territory.
‘Greater Tipraland’ is essentially an extension of ruling partner Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura’s demand for ‘Tipraland’, a separate state for tribals by carving out the TTAADC area.
However, the new demand seeks to include every tribal living inside and outside the TTAADC area.
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The ‘Greater Tipraland’ idea does not restrict only to Tripura, and seeks to also include Tripuris living in Assam, Mizoram, and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.
However, the royal scion has never clarified if his demand for ‘Greater Tipraland’ seeks to redraw the territorial boundaries of Tripura or whether the proposed state’s map also includes parts of Assam, Mizoram and Bangladesh.
The party wants the Centre to discuss their demand, but has not received any response so far. All major political parties in the state including the ruling BJP, opposition CPI(M) and Congress, have rejected the demand on several occasions, calling it “separatist and divisive”.
If ‘Greater Tipraland’ state is formed, tribals, who form one-third of the population will control two-thirds of the territory, and non-tribals, who form two-thirds of the population, will have to settle with only one-third of Tripura’s area.
“We want a constitutional solution to our demand, which only the central government can provide. It is not possible to solve our problem by sanctioning any financial package only,” Debbarma told PTI.
He said that his party’s motto is to empower the tribal community but it is not against any other community.
“Many Bengalis live in the tribal council area. We want them to live in peace and harmony. In the princely state of Tripura, Bengalis and tribals lived peacefully and we want to maintain that tradition,” he said.
The princely state, which was ruled by tribal kings for about 500 years, joined the Indian union in 1949.
“If the Centre is not in agreement with our demand, then Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Union Home Minister Amit Shah should give us an alternative solution in writing and we will discuss it with the people of our community.”
“However, the Centre is neither responding to our demand nor inviting us for dialogue. It can negotiate with NSCN but not with us as we are agitating peacefully,” he said.
Debbarma also criticised the state government for not holding elections to 587 village committees in the tribal council even as their term expired a year back.
“The ruling BJP is well aware that it will lose over 95 per cent of the seats if elections to the village committees are held. If elections are not held before March 31, funds will not be sanctioned in the next budget,” he said.
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