As the indefinite rail and road blockade demanding a separate state for the indigenous tribals in Tripura entered its third day, members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura stripped naked in protest on the outskirts of the State capital, Agartala. The IPTF, since Monday, has been blocking the Assam-Agartala national highway (NH-8), the State’s only link to the rest of the country, and the railway network in West Tripura district’s Khamthingbari. The situation so far has been peaceful, Superintendent of Police (SP) of West district told news agency PTI on Monday.
What is the IPTF?
It is tribal-based party in Tripura which is known for its hardline stance on the Tipraland issue. The party, founded by NC Debbarma, is also known to be soft on extremist movements in the State. It was close to facing political isolation after failing to win any seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 2013 state assembly elections.
What are they demanding?
The longstanding demand of the IPTF is to carve out Tipraland — a separate state from Tripura. They claim that the identity of the tribal population in the State is under threat. When the UPA government acceded to the demand for Telangana state and allowed the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the separate statehood movement rejuvenated in Tripura with the IPTF organising a massive rally in Agartala.
What is the history of the movement?
After the death of its last king, Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur Debbarma, the hilly kingdom of Twipra joined independent India, first as a Union Territory before going on to achieve statehood. Following the mass migration of the Bengali community from East Pakistan after partition and during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, ethnic strife between the indigenous population and migrants increased over the years. However, the violence abated after the establishment of the tribal autonomous district council to oversee the development of Tripura’s tribal areas.
In August 2016, a rally taken out by the IPTF to mark the eight ‘Tipraland’ Statehood Demand Day turned violent where nearly 100 people were injured and several vehicles were torched in clashes between tribals and non-tribals. A 24-hour blockade of the NH-8 and railway tracks was also observed last year.