Tripura tribals demand separate state

Agartala, Aug 23 (IANS) Enthused by the centre's decision to create a new state of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh, a large number tribals in Tripura Friday organised a massive rally to demand a separate state by upgrading the existing Tribal Autonomous District Council (TADC).

The rally was organised by Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribal-based political party. and was attended by thousands of tribals. The IPFT submitted a memorandum addressed to Governor Devanand Konwar.

"A seven-member delegation IPFT met the governor's joint secretary Nabanita Roy and submitted the memorandum demanding a separate state upgrading TADC," a Raj Bhavan official told IANS.

IPFT general secretary Aghore Debbarma said they want the TADC to be upgraded and a new separate state be formed out of Tripura.

The TADC, which has been playing a key role for the socio-economic development of tribals, has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura's geographical area of 10,491.69 sq km. It was set up in 1985.

Tribals constitute a third of Tripura's 3.7 million people.

The IPFT, which first raised the demand for a separate state several years ago, has so far failed to garner support even from within the indigenous tribal people.

The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in Tripura, the main opposition Congress and its electoral ally Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura - also a tribal based party - strongly opposed the IPFT's separate statehood demand.

"We are now carrying out awareness and mass contact programmes among the across the state to press for the demand for a separate state. Leaders of such movements seeking a separate state from other parts of the country are supporting our demand," IPFT general secretary Debbarma said.

He accused the Left Front government of creating a "lame duck institution" having no real powers to ensure the development of backward indigenous people.

"The fundamental problems of the people have not been solved by the TADC. Tribals continue to lose their lands. Even the state of Kokborok language of the indigenous tribal people is miserable," Debbarma said.

He said that the tribals were once a majority in Tripura and have been living in the state for more than 5,000 years, but their situation is now endangered.

CPI-M spokesman and senior party leader Gautam Das told IANS: "A small state like Tripura cannot be divided further. The IPFT is merely trying to regain its lost relevance in state politics by raising such an impractical demand."

Das said that even the indigenous tribal people do not support IPFT's demand.

Congress leader Tapas Dey said that Tripura is one of the smallest states in India and cannot be divided further. "The socio-economic condition of tribals can be upgraded without forming a new state and if there is a political will of the rulers and tribals extends supports," he added.

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