Willing to work with any party that guarantees Greater Tipraland, says Pradyot Deb Barman ahead of ADC polls
Pradyot recently caused a political stir in Tripura after his party TIPRA joined hands with ruling BJP's ally IPFT for the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council election
The political situation in Tripura has been shaky for a while now. The alliance partners in power, the BJP and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) have not contested an election together since they formed the government in 2018.
In 2020, the IPFT had decided to go solo in the elections for the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, an administrative body of the Tripuri dominated parts of the state, stating that the BJP failed to deliver on its promises for the indigenous people.
On 19 February, political equations in the state took a new turn with the IPFT joined hands with The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) led by Tripura’s royal scion Pradyot Deb Barman.
Pradyot had formed TIPRA after resigning as the president of the Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee in 2019 when he had a fallout with the Congress on a case he had filed in the Supreme Court demanding the implementation of the National Register for Citizen (NRC) in Tripura.
In 2018, the IPFT had contested the Assembly elections with a demand for Tipraland, a separate state for the indigenous population. Pradyot is demanding a Greater Tipraland.
This new alliance between the IPFT and TIPRA is now being seen as a major contender for the council polls and future elections in the state, challenging both the ruling BJP and the main opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist). Edited excerpts from an interview with Pradyot Deb Barman:
What are the conditions and goals of this alliance?
The goal of this alliance is that all organisations which are worried about the recent developments like the Citizenship Amendment Act, which will ensure that the indigenous people of Tripura become even more marginalised in their home, speak from the same platform and in one voice. We have come to a conclusion that unless we combine together and get a written assurance from the Centre that they will look into a political settlement of our demands, we are not going to make it easy for them in the state in any elections.
The IPFT had demanded a separate state of Tipraland, whereas, your demand is of a Greater Tipraland. Could you explain what that would look like?
Greater Tirpaland will include all Tiprasa or Tripuri people whether they live in an area that falls under the Autonomous District Council or outside of it. Parts of the state capital of Agartala have to be included. Areas with indigenous villages have to be included too. But if there are areas where there are no members of the indigenous community and the people there do not want to be a part of the reserved areas, they should be free to not be a part of it.
Basically, everyone who feels a sense of alienation and fear in the current circumstances should be included.
However, the idea is not just limited to the state. We seek to include Tripuris spread across different states of India like Assam, Mizoram and even those living in Bangladesh and other countries.
How do you plan to involve the members of the community living outside the state?
Outside the state, there should be a development council like Biswa Bangla or Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra for the community which looks after the social and cultural issues of the people. This will be a non-political set up that looks after the affairs of the community wherever they may be based now. In this council, we will have people from different professional backgrounds like historians, social workers, scientists who will work with the community to revive its culture and work for the upliftment of those in need.
Do you see your demands causing social friction in the state which has a history of turbulence?
Not at all. We are being falsely projected as a communal force. Have we said anything against any community? How does putting out legitimate demands of a community that fears being marginalised in their own home be communal? We are not against any community or even want anybody to feel concerned or worried. We have opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as it does not benefit anyone. How does a non-Tripuri benefit from adding citizens from a neighbouring country in a state which has already taken in many people from neighbouring countries in the past?
Would you be contesting Assembly elections too?
My participation in politics is with the single aim of Greater Tipraland. We will contest local elections with that aim in mind. But I do not see myself in politics for my entire life and might even withdraw from politics when I reach my goal.
There are speculations about you joining the BJP. Is that true?
Such speculations have no basis and are only in the media. I am willing to work with any party that gives us a guarantee of Greater Tipraland in writing. For that reason, it is important for all the organisations of indigenous people to come together and not let our forces be divided.
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