Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable. — Mark Twain

Counter Currents gave me some space on Oct 30, a piece was published “Tripura after Bangladesh – Curious Turn of Events”. That article contained some interesting facts and chronologies which were and still are usually not discussed in the media. It took much time to collect those, and I must thank Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who always insisted more on facts than on things inside heart/mind, and also Professor Barry Commoner who taught us The Four Laws of Ecology the first law of which states “Everything Is Connected to Everything Else”. Without these concepts such facts could not be mined by me, a slow-witted person.

However, if Tripura was peaceful, then was there any need to take such drastic measure against the supposed rumour-mongers? There could be temporary stoppage of twitter accounts, warning letters, legal reprimand if the Court thinks so, and showing the real picture of that space-time which was supposedly twisted by those ‘supposed rumour-mongers’. That would have brought enough disgrace to those lawyers and journalists who joined that so-called undesirable-bandwagon. Why the administration got so furious! This is really intriguing.

While writing that aforementioned article, we had no ‘facts’ by then that could prove Tripura was or was-not burning, because, only some videos on Twitter cannot ‘prove’ a point – have we not seen concocted videos used by government administration to tag sedition charges against some students of JNU which was later proved to be morphed, ‘photoshopped’, and hence the Supreme Court did not pay any heed to such ‘evidences’ propagated by govt administration and Hindutva mob.

Therefore, we used such framings like:

  1. 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.
  2. [In the past, suppose, in the previous century] …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.
  3. 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 why not, we may ‘suppose’ anything with some circumstantial coincidences but we cannot bring disrepute to Counter Currents and its Editor Binu Mathews by making this platform a branch of the so-called ‘social media’ which are being deliberately used to spread misinformation, as a Facebook executive exposed to the US Administration.

Nevertheless, we got some surprising facts and presented in that piece though not exactly in this language and not all of the following was given in that article:

  • In Tripura, in the last century, there had been a drastic demographic change, where both Muslims and Indigenous Tripura Tribe people have become fewer, Tripura people became minority, already less than half by 1951 and declining towards nearly one-third! They ‘lost’ control in their own land.

1 1

  • But the above figures estimated from three govt. and one non-govt source may be misleading. An author put totally different estimation of Indigenous Tripuri Population share like this: “The tribal natives, who constituted a dominant 64 percent of the total population in 1874, formed a reduced component of the population in successive Census enumerations: 52 percent in 1931, 37 percent in 1951, 28.44 percent in 1981 (the figure went down also due to non-enumeration after the 1980 riot), 29.59 percent in 1991 (excluding Chakma refugees), and 26.74 percent in 2001 (provisional).” [5] So, it might have happened that the figures given in Table 1 includes almost all tribes there as Tripuris.
  • Tripura Tribe people were also feeling discriminated and deprived, which added with global political currents gave rise to ‘National Movement’ like the movements in Assam (where they somehow felt, right or wrong, that they would be minority), Punjab (where they lost land what became Haryana, Himachal), and many states in the North East (which thought they were formerly independent and the British imperialist made them part of British India), etc. In Tripura such a feeling of alienation led to almost military confrontation like conflagration since early-1990.
  • This feeling (and social feelings does not come out of nothing) was a major reason behind the fall of the Left Front Govt in Tripura in 2018.

 

How big was the discrimination in Tripura? We shall see a few examples.

2 2

Source: See [6]

3 1

Source: See [6]

“The percentage of tribal population in the State is 31.75%. But the report of Tribal Welfare Department shows that the tribal employee’s representation in the state is not adequate in respect of Government Departments and Autonomous Bodies. In the case of pure government department only 23% posts are represented by the Scheduled Tribes and similarly, only 21.49% of Scheduled Tribe posts are represented in Autonomous Bodies.” [6]

“The construction of the Dumber dam in the 1970s submerged over 23,530.55 acres and additional land was used for its power house and the setting up of other infrastructure. Most of these came up on tribal community land, whose loss was not compensated by the authorities. “The project facts mention 2,558 individual land-owning displaced families (13,000 persons) but studies point to 8,000 to 9,000 families (40-50,000 persons)” (Bhaumick, 2003: 84). It shows the disparity between the records and the ground reality. “Of the 209,336.59 acres known to have been used in Tripura for development projects during 1947-2000, a third is known to be tribal commons and more than half of the rest is tribal land” (Fernandes & Bharali, 2010: 71). The Dumber dam was the turning point because by 1970 the tribes had lost 20 to 40 percent of their land officially, and more through money lending and other means.” [7]

4 1

Source: [8]

  • Out of 60 MLAs BJP got 36 and its Tripuri Tribe ally IPFT got 8 MLAs. In the ministry BJP has 9 ministers and ITPF has 32 ministers.
  • But Tripura people again felt deceived, the BJP ally Tribe People organisation got 0 out of 28 seats in the Tribal Council elections in April 2021.
  • The new outfit led by the King of Tripura won the elections massively. It got 16 seats and its ally got another 2.
  • BJP state supremo became unpopular even among pro-BJP Tripura Tribe youth. ‘Biplab Hatao BJP Banchao’ slogan was rasied during CM’s visit in a BJP stronghold.
  • Therefore, within a span of three years BJP found itself on wrong foot and hence they desperately needed some way out.
  • These inner state dynamics till April became more worrying for BJP particularly from not a very good show in the assembly polls in 5 states, plus what happened in Punjab-Haryana-Rajasthan-Uttarakhand-UttarPradesh etc states where the farmers movement was advancing foining all attempts to subvert or suffocate the movement.
  • Come September and BJP was very very anxious. In early October BJP’s gameplan was again punctured and farmers won news areas after the Lakhimpur-Kheri farmer-massacre.

BJP, therefore, urgently wanted to change the course of events and social currents; they had to try some new plans in October.

Then suddenly two new courses of events were seen in Tripura in October. [One] In the Tribal front, and [Two] In the non-Tribal Front, i.e., Hindu-Muslim Front, if at all such languages can be used; we used here just to symbolize two domains in which some curious turns of events started. We shall have to see why and how much ‘curious’ those were.

[One] Tripuri tribal population, which had got disgruntled by the CPIM led lefts and did put some faith or hope of BJP as expressed in the election of 2018, were seen to be alienated again, moved away from BJP. BJP and its ‘tribe’ ally organization fared terribly bad in the tribal council election in April 2021. BUT —

  • Suddenly that discredited BJP-ally tribal organisation was seen to be sending an invitation letter to all Tripuri tribal organisations, even to NGO-s and also to the organisation headed by theKing which defeated the BJP-ally tribal organisation only six months back.
  • And what a surprise, the King accepted the invitation and appeared in that meeting of Oct-11 called by the already discredited organisation!
  • All invited in that Oct-11 meeting unanimously agreed to send a delegation to New Delhi to discuss autonomy;
  • And the King would be a member of that united delegation;
  • And the centre had already arranged a high-level committee to meet that delegation!

Remember Manipur? That the Manipur King celebrated Manipur’s Independence Day on Aug-14 in 2019 with Manipur’s own flag? By 2020 Manipur King was a BJP Rajyasabha MP! The Manipur Royal house which always kept distance from New Delhi remembering the way Manipur was made a part of India in 1949, suddenly saw a change. After all BJP knows very well how to deal with Their Highnesses, their new jewel acquisition of recent times was a Scindia.

Anyway, casting aspersion baselessly is a very bad habit. And that would soon be proved. BJP could not yet ‘manage’ the King and the royal house of Tripura.

[Two] If the ‘Tribal front’ could be calmed, the population may be manoeuvred again in a different way so as to obfuscate rising anti-BJP feeling among the people inside and outside Tripura using a tool tested by time. Did that happen? We did not have any ‘proof’. So, we could tell only some happenings and refrained from pointing to this or that unknown unproved individuals/groups as maneuverer.

What were the happenings?

  • 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 stated, and also the govt swung into action arresting many, while police firing on rioting mob killed several persons (Muslim).
  • Now, Where Is COMILLA?  From Comilla Railway station Bangladesh to Rabindra Nagar Bazar, Manarchak, Tripura is less than 12 Km – you can drive in by 30 minutes and by walking, you can go in 2 hours. Comilla: A place so near to Tripura.
  • 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 an anti-Muslim hatred in all states in this subcontinent.
  • By 24-25-October rallies of thousands of mobs organised by Vishva Hindu Parishad and other RSS affiliate organisations to vitiate the communal atmosphere. Anti-Muslim violent activities erupted in Tripura in Panisagar on 26th where about 3,500 Hindutva mobs set out to destroy Mosque and Muslim properties.[9] And the result was at least an increase in communal feeling in India and abroad, the Muslim community became more alienated, apprehensive and disheartened.
  • If one follows the social-network activities of King Pradyot Manikya Dev Barman, it can be seen he was very apprehensive of the situation due to the happenings [see his posting on 20th October] and in between October 23 and 27 he issued several very strongly worded statements and shared videos denouncing the riot mongers. Tripura police filed UAPA etc charges against some 100 persons including several lawyers and journalists, but Tripura govt, under BJP, did not dare to lodge complaint against the king though he said the same wording – mosques on fire. He sternly warned that Tripuris will meet the challenge on the streets if this rioting continues and repeatedly said Tripura several had anti-Muslim riot like this in history where Tripuris and Muslims were coexisting side by side quite peacefully for centuries.
  • Incidentally Panisagar has an interesting history which we shall see, and an interesting geography too – it is not only close to Mizoram, but also to Assam, and Assam’s those two districts are Panisagar’s neighbours, Karimganj, which has more than 56% Muslims among population, and Hailakandi, which has more than 60% Muslims among its population. Flames were surprisingly there at vicinity of such points which have scars and can get auto-ignited.
  • Some videos and posts of the king, who is not jus an individual but rather the head of Tripura’s largest parliamentary opposition now, are given in source no. 10 where he said that while fire was spreading not a single political party in Tripura, including the CPIM and TMC, did take any action there against riot mongers except by Tweets issued from Delhi and Kolkata. [10] It may be worthwhile watching the videos. In one video there was even a news of several persons of minority getting killed in the incidents in Tripura.
  • Though is is not strictly related to these particular incidents, it is might be interesting to see how ‘differently’ a person of North East may perceive things what reast of India takes for granted or do not bother – the king’s posts in November can show how they react when so-called mainstream media personalities talk about north eastern Indians ‘looking like Chinese’, how they ridicule a ‘Naga’ woman in a ‘reality show’ – all these shows Indian reality where the North East people and many others also feel how ‘India’ perceives them, how a sense of alienation always works which mainland Indians generally never sense or bother.

In November suddenly the media jumped on Tripura on such issues which are far away from the lives of the people there, the recent arson and killings included. The opposition political parties all became hyperactive as the Municipality Elections approached nearer. And now all big parties, BJP, CPIM, INC, TMC are successful in obliterating, in erasing, the real issues like marginalisation of Tripuri and other tribes who bear the burn of partition of India, because though other big nations or nationalities within the Indian Union like Bengalis could pass most of the loads on the ‘others’, the tribes. Often the tribes get into farther trouble by conflicts within themselves for meagre resource left for the ‘common property’ and nature.

Anyway, the BJP did not succeed much in their communal plan as no major incident occurred either in West Bengal or in Assam’s Barak Valley. Violence, at ‘low’ scale though, started only in few urban centres in Maharshatra in following the chain reaction of Bangladesh and then Tripura.

But still Tripura is still in danger. Because the state assembly election will be in early 2023. As one of the videos cited here explains, communalism if the most effective medicine in India to make people forget the real issues of life. But real issues are not only economic, there are national / ethnic / social inequalities, marginalisation, cultural imperialism and so on so forth.  If these do not appear in the parliamentary arena and find some sort of solutions then they always tend to go to extra-parliamentary path, and then there were always spirals of violence.

Kókborok is the language of Tripuri people, where Kók means verbal communication and borok means people. Among the pioneers who worked for the development of this language and writing down the grammar were Radhamohan Thakur, Daulot Ahmed and Mohammad Omar. Their books were all usually printed from Comilla. Ahmed and Omar’s book KOKBOKMA was the first grammar book, it was published in 1897. And 102 years after that, that is in the year 1999, Kókborok was declared the official language, not of Tripura of course, but Tripura Tribal Area Autonomous District Council. We have seen that by 1947 the Tripuris became less than 50% of the population. Still now there are debates as to which script is to be used (Roman or Devanagari) and etc, though the royal house started using Bengali script (like in Manipur and Assam) from the nineteenth century. Linguistic and other national issues are very sharp in North East where there were even apprehension regarding ‘Hindi cultural imperialism’ or aggression through media. Such issues should nt be taken lightly by mainland-India, it costs dearly as we saw in the first half century after 1947 all through India.

The Specificity of Panisagar: Where Rampage Erupted

Panisagar

Maitri Setu

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)             Tension was brewing as government was ready for forcible acquisition of land for ‘development’ projects as a December 2014 news was reporting: “AGARTALA / DAMCHHERA / PANISAGAR, December 28 (TIWN): Heavy resentments brewing over proposed 800 acres Gas Based Urea Fertilizer plant at Damchhera R D Block, Panisagar. Local Halam, Reang tribals won’t give-up land but ready to face death in upcoming days if Tripura Govt, ONGC, Chambal Fertilizers finally moves ahead in acquiring land forcibly from Halam, Reang tribals.” [11]

(iii)          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 [12]. People are thirsty.

(iv)           In 2019 the hunger-struct Bru tribe refugees from Mizoram in camps in Panisagar declared – we shall start looting food if we are not provided immediately! [13] 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. [14] Tripura govt (BJP) angrily demanded that Mizoram govt (BJP) stop poking nose inside Tipura’s territory [15].

Thus, Panisagar was already a disturbed place. More internal strife can generate, could be generated. Panisagar was a part of a map that was being morphed into paper at Fahrenheit 451, that auto-ignition temperature of paper and the title of that famous book by Bradbury, a temperature when books, papers, self immolate.

PS: Incidentally, about 30 years ago another reign ended in India – The era of S D Barman and then his son R D Burman, who hailed from the royal family of Tripura. Sachin Deb Barman left the royal way, married a ‘commoner’, concentrated on mainland languages like Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and related cultures; moved from Comilla, where he was schooled to Calcutta and then to Bombay. This father-son duo had a sway all over, they mesmerised generations. One of RD’s last works was on a love story of 1942, the Quit-India time, the film was released on 1994 after his death. There is also another unrelated interesting fact: this present king is the first in recent time who speaks the native Tripuri language fluently when communicating the indigenous people of the state, though for other audiences, the royal house uses English, and also sometimes Hindi.

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

SOURECS:
[1] SOME BASIC STATISTICS OF TRIPURA – 2018 https://ecostat.tripura.gov.in/Some-Basic-Statistics-of-Tripura-2018.pdf

[2] Tripura Population History http://tripura.org.in/pophistory.htm

[3] http://lsi.gov.in:8081/jspui/bitstream/123456789/775/1/23902_1951_LA.pdf

[4] https://censusindia.gov.in/2011Census/C-16_25062018_NEW.pdf

[5] Ethnicity and Insurgency in Tripura, Author(s): Biswajit Ghosh

Source: Sociological Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 2 (September 2003), pp. 221-243

Published by: Indian Sociological Society

[6] Socio-Economic Status of Tribal Communities in Tripura

U Sa Jen Mog, Dr. Jahar Debbarma, http://data.conferenceworld.in/ASH-2018/30.pdf

[7] Land Alienation in Tripura: A Socio-Historical Analysis

Rajiv Tewari ISBN 978-81-7791-285-2

[8] Comparative Study on Health-Related Physical Efficiency Between

Tribal And Non-Tribal School Going Boys Of South Tripura, India

Deb, P and Dhara, PC, International Journal of Recent Scientific Research

Vol. 11, Issue, 05(A), pp. 38388-38393, May, 2020

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24327/ijrsr.2020.1105.5301

[9] https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/tripura/tripura-mosque-vandalised-two-shops-set-on-fire-during-vhp-rally-7592208/
[10] https://fb.watch/9kpvFcNLZa/

https://fb.watch/9kptnBRVgT/

https://www.facebook.com/PradyotBikramManikyaDB/posts/423561629158907

https://www.facebook.com/PradyotBikramManikyaDB/posts/423588779156192

[11] http://www.tripurainfoway.com/news-details/TN/16665/chambal-fertilizer-ongc-s-rs-5000-crore-gas-based-urea-fertilizer-plant-heavy-resentment-brewing-among-tribals-an-environmental-disaster-ahead.html

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

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

[14] 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

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


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