Ruling BJP ally in Tripura continues protest against CAA

Agartala: The Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), the ruling BJP’s junior ally, which has resumed its stir against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and other issues after around a month, continued its sit-in-demonstrations for the fourth day on Thursday.

Braving chilly weather, several hundred activists, including women, led by the leaders of the IPFT, which has eight MLAs and two ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government, continued their sit-in demonstration in Khumulwng, the headquarters of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC).

“Hundreds of tribals, including women and youth from across Tripura took part in the indefinite sit-in protest in Khumulwng (25 km north of Agartala). Our top leaders, including party President Narendra Chandra Debbarma and General Secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia, led the sit-in-demonstration,” IPFT Assistant General Secretary and party spokesman Mangal Debbarma told IANS over the phone.

Debbarma is the Revenue and Fisheries Minister, while Jamatia is the Minister for the Tribal Welfare and Forest Departments.

Besides keeping Tripura out of the purview of the CAA, the IPFT has been demanding creation of a separate state for tribals and inclusion of the tribal language “Kokborok” in the 8th schedule of the constitution.

The IPFT has been agitating since 2009 for creation of a separate state by upgrading the TTAADC, which has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 sq km area which is home to over 12,16,000 people, 90 per cent of whom are tribals.

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Mangal Debbarma said the IPFT would continue their agitation until they get an invitation from the central government to discuss their demands.

A delegation of the IPFT leaders led by party General Secretary Mevar Kumar Jamatia met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on December 12 and discussed their demands.

“Though the Union Home Minister has assured us to on taking favourable steps towards our demands, but we are yet to get any positive response from Shah or the central government. We are still hopeful that the Centre would take positive steps in regards to our demands,” Debbarma said as the sit-in-demonstration

“During the December 12 meeting, Amit Shah had told us he would look into our issues after Christmas, or would hold another round of meetings with us, but nothing, as we can see, has happened as so far,” he added.

Speaking to the media, IPFT President Narendra Chandra Debbarma said that despite the CAA, various border management measures and steps, including erection of border fencing, infiltrations from across the border continue unabated.

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“The huge influx from neighbouring Bangladesh has already put a huge burden on our resources, demography and economy. The increasing unemployment would be further aggravated,” the veteran tribal leader said.

Other tribal parties, including the Joint Movement Against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (JMACAB), a conglomeration of many tribal parties, had called off their agitation against the CAA on December 11 after a meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.

However, the JMACAB, led by the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), one of the oldest tribal-based parties in the state, has also separately resumed their anti-CAA protests and held a rally on Tuesday in Agartala. The police arrested around 250 tribals belonging to this group for “unlawful assembly” in the state capital.

JMACAB convener Anthony Debbarma told the media that after the meeting with the Union Home Minister on December 12, the leaders of the JMACAB met the Tripura Chief Minister on December 18 and January 2 to resolve their demands, but nothing has happened so far.

The JMACAB and various other tribal parties, including the tribal front of the CPI-M, the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) — the state’s oldest tribal-based party — have been demanding that the Northeast states be kept out the ambit of the CAA.

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