Former Tripura Congress chief and royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma on Saturday called for greater unity between tribals and non-tribals in order to reject the amended Citizenship Act in the state.
Leading a rally at Dasharampara village in Khumulwng, headquarters of the Tripura ADC, Debbarma said politics has divided ‘Tiprasa’ (people of Tripura) over the years and raised the slogan ‘Puila Jati Ulobo Jati’, meaning ‘community first, community also at the end’, appealing people to come together against CAA, cutting across political lines. He also urged the locals to not treat Bengalis as “enemies”.
His statement assumes significance as the anti-CAA protests in Assam, Tripura, and other northeastern states have been centered around ethnicity rather than religion, calling out every non-native as an outsider irrespective of his/her religion. His new slogan was also a marked shift from his earlier slogan of ‘Puila Jati, Ulo Party’ (Community first, party later) when he was Congress president in 2019.
Leaders of nearly all tribal political parties including Tripura’s ruling ally Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), IPFT-Tipraha, Tripura Peoples Front (TPF), Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), Tripura United Indigenous Peoples’ Council (TUIPC) joined the rally.
Referring to a petition he filed in the Supreme Court against the Citizenship bill in February last year, Debbarma said, “We shall struggle peacefully but we shall not rest until the goal is achieved. I have filed petition with the Supreme Court. If needed, I shall continue to struggle until my death. But I appeal to our people to maintain peace and not view non-tribals as enemies. They didn’t frame CAA.”
In an oblique reference to BJP, the royal scion said CAA was framed by politicians at New Delhi, who were elected by votes of common people including those of Tripura. “They were elected by your vote and they sold themselves when they got to Delhi. There are people who will want tribals to fight non-tribals, non-tribals to fight with Muslims,” he said.
He attacked opposition leader Manik Sarkar for not speaking up against CAA and said while the communist party is showing off struggles against the Act at Delhi, Sarkar is sitting absolutely silent in Tripura.
Debbarma also criticised the Congress for opposing NRC revision across the country as told by the Ministry of Home Affairs before the central government stepped back on the issue and said the party opposed NRC since it would upset its ‘vote bank politics’.
Contrary to his slogans, however, few of his previous speakers at the rally like Patalkanya Jamatia, leader of a regional party called Tripura Peoples Front (TPF), said ‘foreigners’ were the main problem of tribals in Tripura and raised the slogan of ‘Videshi Hatao, Tipra Bachao’.
IPFT leader and MLA Brishaketu Debbarma said he joined the rally out of ‘respect’ for Debbaram.
Bangladeshi citizen arrested
Meanwhile, a Bangladeshi national along with four Indian citizens were arrested in Tripura’s Khowai district while they were trying to cross the Indo-Bangla international border and enter the Indian territory.
The ‘foreigner’ was identified as Minati Das, 60, of Jibanganj Bazaar area in Brahmanbariya district of Bangladesh.
The Border Security Force (BSF) informed that they apprehended 134 persons while crossing the international border in 2019. A whopping 68 per cent of them were Bangladeshi nationals while 31 per cent were identified as Rohingya refugees.
Tripura shares 856 km long international border with Bangladesh, 67 km of which is still unfenced in different patches. Most tribal parties of the state have so far claimed this semi-porous border renders Tripura susceptible to illegal immigration of non-tribals from Bangladesh, leaving the tribals at a crisis of identity and existence.