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Assessment for Tripuras in India

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Tripuras in India, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a9453.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
India Facts
Area:    3,287,590 sq. km.
Capital:    New Delhi
Total Population:    984,004,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Tripuras have four of the factors that increase the likelihood of continuing rebellion: current rebellion; territorial concentration; repression by state authorities; and a history of lost autonomy. Factors that could inhibit rebellion include India's history of democratic government and its tradition of attempting to reach settlements with groups seeking autonomy or independence.

Analytic Summary

The Tripuras reside in their historical region of residence, what is now referred to as the northeast Indian state of Tripura. The region was governed by a succession of Tripura princes until the mid-1700s when the British East India Company established control. Group members have not migrated to the country's other regions; rather, substantial migrations into Tripura, primarily by Bengali-speakers, have been enduring concerns for the Tripuris.

The Tripuras comprise around 20 different Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim tribal groups. The vast majority speak Kokborok which was only recognized as the state's second official language in 1978 (LANG = 1). During colonial rule, local Tripura rulers had declared Bengali as the official language to help attract Bengalis from Bengal state to help administer the region. Group members follow different social customs than the country's majority Hindu community and they are of a different racial stock in comparison to the dominant group (RACE = 3).

Migrations of Bengalis into Tripura began in the early 1900s as labor was required to develop a tea industry and also to help govern the area. However, the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 resulted in the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Bengali Hindus into India with Tripura becoming a major recipient. Since then there have been continual migrations of both Bengali Hindus and Muslims into Tripura. At independence, the tribals formed the majority of the state's population; however, by 1981 they were reduced to just 28.5%.

Tribal political mobilization against Bengali inflows was first articulated in 1947 by Seng Krak, an organization which was banned shortly afterward (PROT45X = 2). In the late 1960s, a new organization, the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS), began a political campaign to create an autonomous tribal district council. Group concerns about Bengali migrations were not addressed as the local governing party maintained power by appealing to the Bengali constituency.

The militant Tripura National Volunteer Force (TNV) emerged in 1978 with the assistance of the Mizo National Front (MNF), a rebel group which was seeking autonomy for tribal Mizos in the neighboring state of Assam (REB75X = 4). Victory by the tribal-supported local Communist party in the state elections that year resulted in a commitment to create a Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council. This was realized in 1982. However, the TNV continued its armed campaign until 1988 when it signed an accord with the federal government. The agreement promised to address various tribal concerns including migrations from Bangladesh, the loss of tribal lands to Bengali settlers, and greater participation of tribals in the state administration. Limited implementation of the accord led to the emergence of the next phase of the Tripura rebellion. Disgruntled members of the TNV formed the All Tripura Tribal Force (ATTF) in 1990 and began launching attacks against state authorities.

Group members are subject to many demographic stresses including declining caloric intake and environmental decline due to widespread flooding which has affected crop harvests. In addition, the tribals are severely affected by land shortages which are due to either dispossession or competition with other groups to use underutilized land.

Tripuras are economically disadvantaged compared to other groups (ECDIFXX01-03 = 1; ECDIS01-03 = 2). While Tripura political parties are present in government, they are underrepresented (POLDIS03 = 2).

The Tripuras are divided over their territorial demands as some militant groups seek independence while other rebel and conventional organizations favor the creation of a separate tribal state within India or, at a minimum, the provision of widespread autonomy in tribal areas (SEPX = 3). Access to greater economic opportunities, protection of their land and jobs from the Bengalis, and maintaining their culture and lifeways are also important concerns. The tribals face significant political restrictions and they are disadvantaged in the economic arena due to prevailing social practices by the dominant community (POLDIS00 = 4; ECDIS00 = 3). In the 2004 elections, several Tripura political parties allied with the victorious Congress Party.

While militant organizations primarily promote group interests, there are a number of conventional tribal organizations. Divisions within the community have led to the creation of numerous, often competing, organizations with varying demands (COHESX9 = 3). During the 1990s, there were a number of active militant groups including the ATTF, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), the Tripura Liberation Organization Front (TLOF), the Youth Tribal Force of Tripura (YTFT), the Tripura Tribal Volunteer Force (TTVF), and the Tripura Tribal Democratic Force (TTDF). Some of these groups maintain sanctuaries in neighboring Bangladesh. In 2001, the chief minister of neighboring state Mizoram attempted to host negotiations between federal authorities and the NLFT. In 2002, authorities in Tripura offered amnesty to militants willing to negotiation. However, as of the end of 2003, no substantive negotiations had taken place.

Relations between Tripura groups did not erupt in violence in the years 1998 to 2000. However, during this time period there were violent incidents between the Tripura and Bengali communities that resulted in numerous deaths and the destruction of property. Rebel Tripura groups continue to target Bengali settlers while militant Bengali groups such as the United Bengali Liberation Front are actively engaging in armed attacks against the tribal population (COMCON01-03 = 3). The various conflicts in Tripura have claimed an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 lives over the past two decades. The NLFT has also harassed Muslim and Hindu individuals in Tripura.

References

Degenhardt, Henry W.(ed.), Revolutionary and Dissident Movements: An International Guide, A Keesing's Reference Publication, (London: Longman), 1987.

Hasnain, Nadeem, Tribal India Today, (New Delhi: Harnam Publications), 1983.

Hiro, Dilip, The Untouchables of India, MRG(Minority Right Group) Report No. 26, 2nd ed. (London: Murray House, 3 Vandon Street), November, 1982.

Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Keesing's Record of World Events: Record of National and International Current Affairs with Continually Updated Indexes, Keesing's Publication, annual (London: Longman Group Ltd).

Lee, Shin-wha, Phase II Chronology, Minorities at Risk Project, CIDCM, University of Maryland at College Park.

Lexis-Nexis news reports 1990-2003.

Singh, Balmiki Prasad, The problem of Change: A Study of North-East India, (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press), 1987.

Sloan, Gwen/John White, Index: FBIS-Daily Report: South Asia, (New Canaan, CT: NewsBank, inc -- Foreign Broadcast Information Service).

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