By Tapas Dey

June 17, 2017: A crucial occasion in state politics seems to have slipped into posterity without much ado-the completion of fifty years of existence of Tripura’s first tribal based regional party, the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (TUJS) which was reincarnated as Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) in 2002.

It was the three eventful days of June 10-12 ,1967 that a major milestone in state politics was set up with the launching of the TUJS in a convention at Kaintya Kobra under Mandai block in then Sadar subdivision.The launching of the new party was attended by none other than legendary Dasharath Deb who attempted to influence the course of the new party and its policies and programmes under his own party, the CPI (M). But the young leaders of TUJS , Shyamacharan Tripura, Drau Kumar Reang, Harinath Debbarma and Bijay Kumar Hrangkhawal proved much cleverer as they kept the party closed to non-tirbals and chalked out a four-point programme for the new party. These included an autonomous district council for tribals, introduction of ‘Kokborok’ as medium of instruction for tribal students, innerline for ADC and alienation of tribal land .

Convinced logically by the urgent need for realization of these demands in the existential interest of the tribal communities , the TUJS leaders kept powerful leaders of other parties including Dasharath Deb and Aghore Debbarma of CPI at bay. The formation of the new party was followed almost immediately by the launching of a virulent ethno-centric agitation for preservation and protection of tribal interests.
For the sake of historical facts it must be mentioned that Tripura’s first regional party to protect tribal interest had been formed by late Sneh Kumar Chakma under the banner of Eastern India Tribal Union (EITU) in the mid-fifties which did not last long. But the TUJS had come to stay in state politics with an agitation programme for protecting tribal interests. There was a historical context behind the formation of TUJS as between the decade of 1951-1961 Tripura’s tribal population had registered a phenomenal growth of more than 78% owing to influx of Bengali refugees from riot-stricken East Pakistan. This proved calamitous for indigenous tribal people who got reduced to a minority in their own homeland and by 1981 the population of tribal people had reached its lowest point at 28.44%.
But shortly after its formation TUJS had struck a responsive chord in the tribal mind and started rapidly gaining ground .

In the momentous year of 1969 TUJS had formed its student wing the Tribal Student Federation (TSF) even as launching of other frontal wings like Tripura Sundari Nari Vahini and employees Front followed in a series but the most important thing was the launching of its volunteer force , Tripur Sena in 1971. The young leaders of the party had realized that at one stage their movement for ADC, land restoration etc would meet with resistance which it did from the ‘Amra Bangali’. But the movement with a sprinkling of violent incidents followed and reached a turning point in the joint action programme launched in association with CPI (M) and CPI against the eviction of tribals from the Dumbur hydro-electrical project site in 1974-1975.
Even as the TUJS had emerged as a potent force in state politics the assembly election of 1978 was a turning point as the party won four seats in the sixty member assembly. Nagendra Jamatya, Harinath Debbarma, Ratimohan Jamatya and Drau Kumar Reang were the four MLAs of the party which now started using the state assembly to press for its four point charter of demands. However, things moved fast and ethnic polarization rapidly gained ground as a result of conflicting campaigns for and against ADC carried on by TUJS and ‘Amra Bangali’. The left front’s administrative failure to cope with the situation worsened matters and a limited ethnic riot occurred in Teliamura areas . Even though the situation was brought under control quickly this only showed the larger blood bath in the form of ethnic killing that still waited to happen. In the mean time Bijay Kumar Hrnagkhawal , an adventurist man fascinated by Lal Denga’s insurgent movement in Mizoram, had secretly launched TNV in Amarpur in December 1978 after being removed from the post of chief of ‘Tripur Sena’.
The then chief minister Nripen Chakraborty had managed to win over Hrangkhawal with offers of finance and business opportunities by February 1980. But things had taken a turn for the worse as despite the left front’s declaration in late 1979 that ADC would be formed , TUJS carried on its movement a series of violent attacks took place on Bengalis in isolated hilly pockets. But the decisive step was the TUJS’s declaration that they would launch ADC on their own a ‘bazar boycott’ programme in hilly areas in the first week of June 1980. Finally the pent-up emotions on both sides had burst forth and from June 6 full scale ethnic riots broke out in Amarpur, Udaipur, Sadar and parts of Khowai subdivision. This continued for more than twelve days but the situation was brought under control by chief minister Nripen Chakraborty soon with liberal assistance from Centre. The ADC based on 5th schedule came into being after elections held in January 1982 and the left front won handsomely though TUJS made its presence felt.
The next major milestone in the political progress of TUJS was the deal it struck with prime minister Indira Gandhi in Delhi in December 1982 for 6th schedule in exchange for an alliance with the Congress for the assembly polls of 1983. In the assembly polls TUJS had won six seats and Congress could manage 15 including two rebel independents. But for an incompetent Congress leadership the opposition could have won the election. Mrs Gandhi had kept her promise two months ahead of her tragic assassination as on August 18 1984 she had moved in parliament a bill for extending the provisions of 6th schedule to Tripura and it was passed on August 23. The ADC had passed under 6th schedule with effect from April 1 1985 and fresh elections were held on June 30.

The Congress-TUJS combine secured 13 out of 28 seats in a creditable show . By now except inner line regulations which is almost impossible to enforce in Tripura’s terrain all other demands of TUJS have been fulfilled but the party retained its identity despite pressure from banned militant outfits to do away with its banner and launch a new party . Because of threat and intimidation from the banned NLFT the TUJS had to stay away from the ADC polls in 2000 and finally in the year 2002 the party took a new identity under the banner of INPT which is still active in state politics.
Before that TUJS had also run the state government for five years between 1988 and 1993 but because of bankruptcy and rampant corruption, Congress the government was a disaster and the party even in its new Avatar as INPT has not been able to taste power again. In 2003 the INPT had won six seats in the assembly but this came down to only 1 in 2008 and none in 2013. Yet again there are signs that INPT may go with the BJP again in the next assembly polls with reasonable chance of winning a couple of seats. Although the TUJS and its new Avatar INPT have played their role in issue-based politics , the party still remains relevant because of its commitment to democratic politics and consistent fight for tribal interest. In the history books on Tripura in future the role of TUJS will definitely be recorded in golden letters as the party that played a decisive role in protecting tribal interests of Tripura . It may be hoped that TUJS and its successor INPT will be able to celebrate its diamond and platinum jubilee also .

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