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Centre signs pact with Tripura govt, TIPRA Motha: The demands, significance of the agreement

Context- The Centre, the Tripura government, and the TIPRA Motha, the state’s main opposition party, recently signed a tripartite agreement. This agreement aims for a time-bound “honorable resolution” of the long-standing demands of the state’s tribal population, which include economic, political, land, linguistic, and cultural rights.

The agreement was signed on March 2, just before the Lok Sabha elections. It ended the indefinite fast-unto-death started by TIPRA Motha founder Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma on February 27. The agreement also enabled TIPRA Motha to join the BJP in the state government, with two of its members being sworn in as ministers. However, the rest of the Opposition has criticized TIPRA Motha for aligning with the BJP.

What are the demands?

  • The Tipra Motha’s demands include the creation of a “Greater Tipraland”, a separate state for Tripura’s tribals that would also encompass those living outside the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) area.
  • The party has called for increased powers for the TTAADC, including direct funding from the Centre, its own police force, and a share of the state’s gas exploration revenue. They also want the Roman script to be declared the official script for the indigenous Kokborok language.
  • Pradyot Debbarma, the founder of Tipra Motha, has described the agreement as “60 per cent of the battle being won”, and believes that the remaining 40 per cent can be achieved by staying united and continuing to fight for their demands.
  • The tripartite agreement was signed a year after Home Minister Amit Shah met with Pradyot in Agartala.
  • BJP Northeast coordinator Sambit Patra, who was part of the discussion, later informed the media that Shah had requested the appointment of an interlocutor to discuss the demands of the Motha, involving other stakeholders such as tribal leaders from different parties and tribal community leaders.

What does the accord say?

  • The pact aims to peacefully resolve all issues concerning the indigenous people of Tripura, including matters related to history, land and political rights, economic development, identity, culture, and language.
  • A joint working group or committee will be formed to work out and implement the mutually agreed points on these issues in a time-bound manner to ensure an honorable solution, as per the Centre’s statement.
  • To maintain a conducive atmosphere for the implementation of the pact, all stakeholders are expected to refrain from any form of protest or agitation from the day the agreement was signed.

What did Home Minister Amit Shah say?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah described the signing of the accord as “historic”. He stated that the agreement honors history, corrects past mistakes, and accepts current realities.
  • His comments indirectly referred to allegations of deprivation faced by Tripura’s tribals, who became a minority in their own state due to the large-scale settlement of non-tribals before the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, and concerns about illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

What has Pradyot said?

  • As the Motha joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), two of its legislators, Animesh Debbarma and Brishaketu Debbarma, were sworn in as ministers in the Manik Saha cabinet on March 7. This decision drew criticism from the Opposition, accusing the Motha of maintaining secret links with the BJP for three years.
  • Pradyot Debbarma, the Motha chief, assured that the ministers from his party would not remain silent if the rights of the tribals are not respected or if the government commits any atrocities.
  • He emphasized that they would not repeat the mistake made by the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) of staying silent when policies were against their people.
  • He also mentioned that pressure would be kept on the government from various fronts, including the Assembly, the party, civil societies, and by sending their people to the Centre.
  • Pradyot highlighted that for the first time in recent history, five out of 11 ministers of Tripura are tribals. He stated that the decision to join the BJP government was made considering the current realities and the certainty of the NDA government returning to power. He emphasized that the tribals would have to get Constitutional solutions from this government.

How did the Opposition react?

  • After the signing of the tripartite accord, former Tripura Chief Minister and CPIM politburo member Manik Sarkar stated that the TIPRA Motha had “revealed its true face”.
  • He noted that the founder of TIPRA Motha, Pradyot Kishore, had left the protest site for Delhi after receiving a call, and an agreement was signed a few days later without any mention of Greater Tipraland. Sarkar expressed surprise at how quickly TIPRA Motha agreed to conditions like no agitations.
  • In a more subdued response, Congress state president Ashish Kumar Saha acknowledged that TIPRA Motha is a separate political party and has the right to make its own decisions.

Conclusion- The signing of the tripartite agreement between the Centre, the Tripura government, and the TIPRA Motha marks a significant step towards addressing the long-standing demands of Tripura’s tribal population. The pact, which includes provisions for economic, political, land, linguistic, and cultural rights, has been met with mixed reactions.

While it has led to the TIPRA Motha joining the BJP-led government in the state, it has also drawn criticism from other opposition parties. Despite the controversy, the agreement signifies a commitment to resolving historical grievances and working towards a more inclusive future for the tribal communities in Tripura.

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