Tripura

We landed in a messy Halloween today after curious turns of events in October. There were eruptions of anti-Hindu barbarism in Bangladesh during mid-October, during Bengali Hindu religious festival centring Durga Puja. And after that we got a week when news of vandalism against Muslim community came from Tripura. The Bengali-Hindu community in eastern India including West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and also in foreign countries came under the grip of a sudden propaganda against ‘Islamic aggression’; data focusing ‘decrease of Hindu population in Bangladesh/East-Pakistan were widely circulated in social-media. And after that, something happened in Tripura, and this was used to bolster the sense of fear and alienation among Muslim community in West Bengal, Assam and elsewhere. And if put in perspective, it seems now that these together point to some mystery or might be machination.

Those who spread the news of Hindus becoming minority in Bangladesh are of course using publications, facts and data of eminent personalities of Bangladesh who themselves belong to Muslim community by birth. One may cite works of Dr Abul Barkat [1] who in an event of 2016 said (as per newspaper reports) – if current rate of exodus continues, there will be no Hindus left in Bangladesh in 30 years. But what about Muslim population in Tripura? Those Hindu educated persons could consult most recent Tripura govt data available to find how the Muslim population in Tripura is dwindling:

Population % of Tripuri (ST) and Muslim in Tripura

YearMuslimTripuri (Tribe)
191128.364.34
195121.248.65
20118.631.78

Source: 2018 publication of Tripura Govt Website and publication of a Tribe Platform [2]

But, then, what is happening in Tripura for a century? What is increasing? Bengali Hindu population, which crossed 60% mark. Adivasis, sadly have nowhere to go, while Hindu and Muslim pass through ‘Border’, which, as if like a semiparametric membrane, allows things to pass according to osmotic pressure. Many Muslims migrated to Bangladesh. Due to heavy influx of Hindu Bengali, the Tripuri Adivasi became a less-than-50% minority already during partition of the country.

But whatever happened, Tripura never witnessed any largescale anti-Muslim violence like many other parts of India. Therefore, the question is how this recent violent episode took place the report of which is also there in the (anti-) social media that a good part of the society unknowingly uses against society. It may be argued that it is a natural consequence of what happened in Bangladesh, though, if seen carefully it may also be said: no, Bangladesh episode is not ‘reason’ rather a ‘pretext’ of Tripura episode. We may like to know a little about Tripura, how wood is getting dried there waiting for flashes to catch fire.

Tripura is very backward state – ruled 35 years by the CPIM etc left (1978-1988, 1993-2018) and 3 years by BJP out of its history of 58-year-old State Legislative Assembly. In the 2011 dataset also Tripura came first as the state with most unemployment. It is a widely believed fact that CPIM etc lefts and also the TMC practise “Muslim-appeasement” and Muslims are being getting so much in these states that both states had such a big proportion in govt employment, around 2.5% during the left regime despite having more than 25% population share in West Bengal. Among college students in Tripura 4.8% are Muslim, among Engineering college students 0.69%, in Grameen Bank employment 0.61%, in state police force 2% and etc [3], with Muslim population standing at 8.6%.

What was the fate of Tripuri people in the state which was their kingdom under their king? They did not wait for statisticians to probe, like a Russian proverbial saying, ‘they voted by their feet’ (soldiers leaving the front showing their disapproval for continuing WWI). When ‘insurgency’ in Punjab, Assam and ‘Tamil’ militance for Elam ended in the 1980s and a neoliberal world was inaugurated at the end of history, Tripura then also saw ‘secessionist’ activities in the 1990s, which was finished apparently militarily, by force. In the last 30 years there were police mutiny, police-strike, and even some episodes of armed para military youth rebelling against what may be called ‘problems of HR dept in handling subordinates.’ There might have been ‘foreign hands’ behind all these unwanted scenarios, but no hand can kindle incombustible things, the land was surely fertile for such clandestine disruptive activities.

That the CPIM led lefts were dethroned in 2018 was a result of the disappointment od the poor Tripuri regarding their continuous 25-year regime. Among the Bengali population also there was disenchantment as regard the left. Riding on these frustration and anger BJP crept in and started their rule. A big organisation of Tripura tribe got many seats in the State Assembly election of 2018. That tribe political outfit aligned to BJP and formed the coalition govt that is ruling now.

But within 3 years the table was turned. In February 2021 the king and the royal mother also were so displeased with their old friend Congress that they voiced their annoyance and the king founded a separate platform of Tripura tribe [4]. The April 2021 the BJP ally organisation of Tripura tribe was jolted in the tribal council election – they scored 0 out of 60 seats! The organisation floated by the king won absolute majority. Tripura CM, the BJP/RSS leader Biplab Deb while visiting a BJP stronghold was shouted down by slogans like “Biplab Hatao, BJP Bachao” [5].

In the all-India level also, things were changing. May 2021 did not bring much cheer after the election results of 5 state assemblies were announced. While on the other hand, on 30 June 2021 tribe people from some parts of India were at Delhi to observe the Hool (Santal rebellion) Kranti Divas called by the organisations of fighting farmers. September 2021 saw the Muzaffarnagar MahaPanchayat assembly of million people and BJP govt of Haryana succumbed to pressure and was compelled to release farmers arrested on grounds of ‘sedition’.

IPTF

Invitation sent out by IPTF, the BJP ally

Suddenly some different smells started coming in October 2021.

  • On 11-October, the tribal outfit close to BJP and a ruling partner of state govt issued a letter to all Tribe organisations even NGOs all groupings of Tripura tribe, inviting all for a meeting to discuss united movement of the tribe for a separate tribe Homeland. The king was also invited.
  • On 16-October that meeting was held in presence of the king. It was decided that a united delegation will go to Delhi and a high-level officer of the central govt will discuss with them regarding that homeland demand.
  • On 13-October, meanwhile, in the wee hours, a Koran was found near the foot of a Hanuman statue in front of Durga Idol (a very unlikely place for a Hanuman statue) in a puja pandal in Comilla, Bangladesh. A wave of anti-Hindu program started, and also the govt swung into action arresting many, while police firing on rioting mob killed several persons (Muslim).
  • From 13 October, it took 7-10 days for Bangladesh to cool down. October 20 onwards there were huge protests in Bangladesh against this anti-Hindu actions of Islamic fundamentalists, which again showed the world the secular spirit of a huge section of Bangladesh people. Again, talks started as to how to make republic ‘secular’ again constitutionally. West Bengal also saw several protests by civil society groups, students, youth and cultural activists against this Islamic fundamentalist violence.
  • 13-October to 25-October also witnessed frantic efforts by Hindu Bengali forces to condemn Islamic terror on Hindus in Bangladesh, the ‘continuous torture and eviction of Hindus from Bangladesh’ and etc all over the world. Many Bengali speaking youth get roped with this activity which helped spreading a anti-Muslim hatred in all states in this subcontinent.
  • By 25-October anti-Muslim violent activities allegedly erupted in Tripura and the result was at least an increase in communal feeling in India and abroad, the Muslim community became more alienated, apprehensive and disheartened.

And where first the communal condition started to worsen in Tripura? In a subdivision named Panisagar. What Panisagar is famous for? Panisagar is not particularly famous for tribal handicraft or wonderful archaeological sites which some other places in Tripura can boast of. But there are stories of Panisagar. (i) Panisagar drew thousands of crores of rupees of ONGC investment in last 5 years, Panisagar has a huge potential of natural gas. Land will become valuable here. Real estates will run. (ii) Panisagar is scarce in pani, potable water. After months and years of local protests this year people organised a National Highway Blockade in demand of drinking water [6]. People are thirsty. (iii) In 2019 the hunger-struck Bru tribe refugees from Mizoram in camps in Panisagar declared – we shall start looting food if we are not provided immediately! [7] On the other hand local people, be Hindu or Muslim or Tribe, cannot bear the refugee load in the midst of acute resource crisis. There were clashes in 2020, police fired, Bru tribal killed. [8] Tripura govt (BJP) angrily demanded that Mizoram govt (BJP) stop poking nose inside Tipura’s territory [9]. Thus, Panisagar is already a disturbed place. More internal strife can generate, could be generated.

Vulture is a vulnerable species, except those inside our society who have been flourishing.

The author is an activist who writes on political and socioeconomic issues and also on environmental issues. Some of his articles are published in Frontier Weekly. He lives in West Bengal, India.  Presently he is a research worker. He can be reached at sandeepbanerjee00@gmail.com

[1] No Hindus will be left after 30 years, Dhaka Tribune,November 20th, 2016, https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2016/11/20/abul-barkat-632-hindus-left-country-day

[2] SOME BASIC STATISTICS OF TRIPURA – 2018 www.ecostat.tripura.gov.in and Tripura Population History http://tripura.org.in/pophistory.htm for example

[3] Impact of Demographic Change on the Muslim Community of Tripura, Mijanur Rahaman http://www.muslimsocieties.org/vol-8-no-2_impact_of_demographic_change_on_the_muslim_community/

[4] Brewing in poll bound Tripura Tribal Resentment… Feb 16, 2018

https://scroll.in/article/868842/brewing-in-poll-bound-tripura-tribal-resentment-against-manik-sarkars-left-front-government

[5] Tripura…polls…setback for BJP… 12 Apr 2021 https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-tripura-adc-polls-setback-for-bjp-as-new-outfit-wins-big-cpim-congress-draw-blank/380043

[6] https://jagarantripura.com/2021/02/28/dharmanagar-panisagar-road-blockade-by-people-demanding-drinking-water/

[7] https://www.anandabazar.com/india/in-tripura-bru-refugees-in-tripura-threaten-to-loot-food-godown-dgtl-1.982782

[8] https://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2020/nov/22/row-over-bru-migrants-one-killed-23-injured-in-police-firing-on-picketers-in-tripura-2226586.html

[9] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/tripura-asks-mizoram-to-back-off-from-border-village-claims-jurisdiction/story-e2gB86U9FzX8qA45pcgz1N.html


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One Comment

  1. Abu Siddik says:

    This article has put new insights into the fabric of recent communal violence in Tripura. Put in perspective it poignantly argues for the stories behind the story. Kudos.