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Tripura Insurgency

Despite of being afflicted by violent insurgence and tribal conflicts,the north eastern state of Tripura has amazed the entire country by not only coming out of it but also ensuring development of the majority tribal population. The development model is inclusive with focus in all the spheres i.e. Health, Education, Employment to name few of them.

Years of militancy and conflict roiled Tripura in the 1980s and 1990s, when demands for an independent state for Tripuri tribals had spawned an armed movement. For 18 years until 2015, the state was a “disturbed area” under the Armed Force (Special Powers) Act, which gives security personnel sweeping powers to search, arrest and even kill in such areas with a degree of immunity from prosecution.

Since their independence from Britain, India has faced eleven different insurgencies: communists, Naga, Manipur, Mizo, Tripura, United Liberation Front of Assam, Bodo in Assam, Khalistan movement in Punjab, Sri Lanka, Meghalaya, and Kashmir. The five on-going insurgencies in the mid-1980s included: Naga, Manipur, Mizo, Tripura, and ULFA. The northeastern region of India comprises the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. The states are popularly known as the Seven Sisters. In due course, another state, Sikkim, was added to the family.

Tucked away in a corner of the so-call northeast, surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides, the wooded hills and lowlands of Tripura have long served as a meeting place for a huge assortment of peoples and races. Over the last few centuries, however, its closest ties have been with Bengal.

This Tripura was a separate independent kingdom before annexation by India in 1949. It is historical fact that Tripura was not a part of India. In a critical condition of the king's matter as Queen Regent of Tripura compelled to sign for merger agreement on 9 September 1949. After annexation with India the bonafied Tripuri people become microscopic minority because of the Hindu Bangali huge influx from the then East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh). Now they're all the political, economical,cultural dominating by outsider. Therefore Tripura Peoples Democratic Front (TPDF) and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) start armed national liberation struggle against Indian colonialism. They also want to reestablish Tripura as an independent country. At present majority of its people of Tripura are Hindu Bengali.

Insurgency erupted in Tripura in the late 1970s. In Tripura the tribals rebelled because they found themselves being overwhelmed by the Bengali migrants from what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The end of nearly five hundred years of Manikya dynasty rule in Tripura was followed by socioeconomic and political upheavals. From the tribal point of view it was a disaster as the royalty, always looked upon as patriarch, ceased to have an effective rolein the affairs of the state while ceaseless influx of refugees threatened to swamp them.

The undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) which had established a strong base by then among the indigenous tribals under the leadership of former chief ministers Dasharath Deb and Nripen Chakraborty continued to demand ‘proper rehabilitation of refugees’ to protect the backward tribal community from encroachment on their land and economic marginalisation. The demand was categorically raised in a document of the CPI in its state conference in 1952. The state Congress led by late Sachindra lal Singha and Sukhamay Sengupta, on the other hand, welcomed the influx of refugees as a Political ‘blessing’ as the settlers provided them with a readymade electoral support base. The unfolding decades since October, 1949 thus continued to be dominated by influx of refugees and attempts to safeguard the indigenous tribal community from the adverse effectsas well as a series of administrative changes.

Tripura's basic problem, rather the indigenous Tripuri peoples' problem, is the huge influx of "foreigners", mainly Hindu Bengalis and the resultant alienation of indigenous land thereby causing the threat to the distinctive identity of the Tripuri people and their very existence. India has all along been encouraging this influx of co-religionists and co-ethnic population so as to induct a co-ethnic population base to serve her security interests. The huge influx of foreigners has completely upset the demographic composition of Tripura. The indigenous Tripuri people which constituted more than 85% of the total population at the time of annexation by India has now been reduced to an insignificant minority of less than 29% of the present total of 3 million. To the indigenous, the urban areas have already become a foreign land where their presence is hardly 5%. This population invasion has become the gravest threat to the very existence of the small indigenous Tripuri people as a distinct human groups.

Being culturally more advanced, the settlers now control the economy of Tripura besides having grabbed all the fertile agricultural lands of the indigenous people. With the economy in their hands and political system favourable to them, the "refugees" have now captured political power in Tripura by the sheer strength of their numbers. Thus, the indigenous Tripuri people have been made foreigners in their own homeland. If the present phenomenon is not stopped, the world will have lost the identity of yet another small indigenous people, the Tripuris, in another forty years.

Between 1985 and 1988, over 300 people were killed in Tripura by TNV extremists. Most of those killed were tribals. This wave of killings intensified as the Assembly elections approached, with 162 persons killed between January 1987 and January 1988. Meanwhile, two Central ministers – Santosh Mohan Deb and P.Chidambram – visited Tripura repeatedly, interfered with the functioning of police, district magistrates and other officials, threatened IAS and IPS officers, prevented Tripura State Rifles from being deployed and held meetings with central para-military forces. The Tripura-Chittagong border was kept open over a 100 kilometre stretch despite the State LF Government’s requests to close it. This was done to allow TNV extremists based in Bangladesh to move in freely. Just three days before the elections, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Tripura ostensibly to campaign but actually to set the stage for declaring the whole state a ‘disturbed area’ under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and 70 Army companies and 60 para-military companies were inducted without informing the State Govt..

And with machineries of the state under their control, particularly the state police and para-military forces, the refugee 'settlers' unleashed a reign of terror against the indigenous Tripuri people.

The Bangladesh elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) recovered 10 Chinese-made rockets, firearms among other arms and ammunition from a forest that lies close to the Tripura border. The firearms were found hidden in bunkers on 03 February 2018, during a search conducted in a remote forest of Satchhari National Park, Bangladesh. Mufti Mahamud Khan, director of RAB's legal and media wing, told reporters that one of their teams began the search operation on Friday, following a tip-off from the force's detective wing. It is suspected that the weapons were being stocked by the banned militant group of Tripura, All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) which has its headquarters in Satchhari.

In 2014, RAB had found a huge amount of arms and ammunition, including seized mortar shells, rocket launchers, machine guns and other explosives, from the same area hidden in similar bunkers.

The mild-mannered chief minister Manik Sarkar, with a combination of guile and pressure, broke the back of the two armed groups that had plagued ordinary life and kept the security forces on their toes for over two decades. These were the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), which like other "insurgent" groups of the region proclaimed their determination for independence from India. In the first decade of the 21st century, Manik Sarkar decided to design his own external security policy, with minimal contact with New Delhi. Between 2003–2006, special units launched around 20 attacks on militants based across the border in Bangladesh, using a mix of rebels who wanted to surrender (but were instead asked to attack their former colleagues) and local Bangladeshi gangs and thugs, who were enticed with funds and the promise of more.

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Page last modified: 18-02-2018 16:26:09 ZULU