assam

BY: AXOMSON

Time and again while trying to put forward their concerns regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and its consequences, the protesters from Assam have relayed fears of becoming the next Tripura.

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The recent decision of the Government of India to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act has left the country in shambles. No matter how much the BJP tries to demean strong and rightful voices against the act by branding them anti nationals and calling them the ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’, the truth is that the country stands divided and in pieces today due to the Government’s very own actions that reflect a strong lack of empathy and total ignorance towards the call of reason from its citizens.

Time and again, while trying to put forward their concerns regarding the act and its consequences, the protesters from Assam have relayed fears of becoming the next Tripura. It is of utmost necessity to understand this theory as to why Assam doesn’t wish to become like one of its sisters.

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Tripura is the living embodiment of the Indian Theory of Atithi Devo Bhavah. For a long time, since before independence, Tripura has opened its arms to welcome the foreigners in times of peace and conflict. Migration into Tripura began in the times of its earlier monarchs who invited fishermen, washermen, farmers and academics from places in erstwhile East Pakistan for the development of the land.

It has to be accepted that these migrants were dexterous and hardworking people and so they were encouraged to settle temporarily in the plains of Tripura. The word ‘temporary’ is to be noted here. This means the non-indigenous people were considered equivalent to NRIs working in other countries with work visas and doesn’t accord citizenship. Later the king in all his kindness and empathy opened the gates to Hindu Bangladeshis facing religious persecution during the Raipur riots of 1939, the Noakhali riots of 1946 and the conflicts emanating immediately after partition.

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Other than this, in 1971, a large number of migrants came into Tripura from East Pakistan due to the crackdown of the Pakistani military on the civilians. An ignorant section of the society sometimes tends to think that Tripura’s king took no steps to safeguard the indigenous population and so he is to be blamed for the present condition of the state. But this is not true. Maharaja Bir Bikram Singh set up tribal reserves in 1931 to introduce settled cultivation by the five communities of Reangs, Jamatias, Halams, Noatias and Tripuris.

Initially this reserve area was 285 square kilometers and later in 1943 was extended to 1950 square kilometers. 300 square kilometers of land was later this land was de-reserved by Maharani Kanchanprabha Devi in 1948 for the rehabilitation of refugees.

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But the central and state Governments of the later years took certain measures that put the rights of the entire indigenous community at risk. Most of the migrants were rehabilitated under the Colony Scheme, the Prototype Scheme and the Land Purchase Scheme. Their population in the meantime continued to rise. So much so that by 1971, Tripura, which had a population of 15.56 Lakhs of its own had managed to shelter 13 Lakhs refugees.

These refugees (as opposed to citizens) managed to build up their own strong nexus of social and political opinion in the state. Many allege that their members have managed to become bureaucrats and lawmakers. During the 50s and 60s, Chief Minister Sachindra Lal Singha provided the migrants land and ration cards in many places spread over the West Tripura district. In 1964, when the Government of India decided to rehabilitate the refugees in other parts of the country, leftist leaders like Nripen Chakraborty and Dasarath Deb opposed vehemently going to the extent of holding fast-unto-deaths. Their demands were met and the refugees were again settled in different parts of the state. In 1974, the Sukhamoy Sengupta led Congress Government de-reserved the entire area set up as settled cultivation by the Maharaja and made it open to non-indigenous settlers.

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The question of existence of the Tiprasas in their own state is now is hanging by a thread. The ADC areas where the population is primarily indigenous has a much lower per capita income as compared to those of the non-indigenous population. We are talking about a kingdom which had never faced Mughal or British aggression for 800 years. But the scion of the royal Manikya family, Maharaja Pradyot Manikya is now on the streets demanding the rights of his people from the very same ‘refugees’ his fore fathers welcomed as their own.

Such is the power of overwhelming immigration of one particular community into a state. Today the names of roads and villages of Tripura have been renamed from their original Kok Borok (the Tripuri common tongue) to Bengali. Such is the power of immigration of a majority of people speaking one common language into the state.

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Many people argue that Hindu Bangladeshis will not harm the social fabric. But in Tripura, a largely Hindu state, the Hindus were not allowed or encouraged to practice Hinduism according to the way that Hinduism had evolved there. Instead, in many temples, the idols of indigenous tribal Hindu gods were cast to the corner and chief Hindu gods from mainland India replaced them. The situation is such that the indigenous people say that Agartala, the capital of the state, does not represent the real Tripura.

All of this was possible only because the migrants have by now become deep rooted in the state’s politics and bureaucracy. So it is very much necessary to give a political answer to this question of protecting the rights of the indigenous community. Like it or not, India’s politics is very well marinated in the sauce of caste and community.

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No matter how much the Bengalis all over the state say that the indigenous peoples’ political rights will always be secured, the same Bengalis will never accept a Gorkha as a Chief Minister of West Bengal. At the same time, many people of Assam are of the hope that the Government will come to its senses and will respect and abide by the provisions of the Assam Accord. These people should realize that this same Government have very well disrespected and voided the Instrument of Ascension of Tripura visualized by their own favorite Sardar Patel. On what grounds can this Government be trusted with an accord that was conceptualized by Rajiv Gandhi?

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The fact is that promises of exemption under 6th Schedule or grant of Inner Line Permit does not guarantee any protection because ILP cannot prevent anyone from entering the state and sixth schedule rights only takes away the property rights and not the voting rights.

The Assamese people’s fear of becoming the next Tripura is not unfounded. The people have to be united and fight against the very old culture of Delhivaad. A political answer has to be given but this cannot be limited towards one party, organization or group. The answer must come from every section of the Assamese people without leaving anyone behind.

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It has to have the voice of the youth, the women, the farmers, the tea tribes, the hill and plain tribes and the non Assamese population of the state who have by now assimilated with the indigenous people and have associated with Assam as their home. Only then will the Assamese fear be vanquished.

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