The glorious history and inspiring experience of the Left-led tribal movement in Tripura was highlighted by the newly-elected Member of Parliament from the Tripura East (ST) seat and former minister in the Left Front government of Tripura, Jitendra Chaudhury, in the CPI(M)’s Thane district study camp held recently in the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar Bhavan at Talasari. Over 300 leading activists of the Party – most of them tribals – attended this camp which was specially held in the wake of the Lok Sabha poll results. After the warm felicitation of Jitendra Chaudhury on his magnificent victory by CPI(M) state secretariat member and Thane district secretary Rajaram Ozare MLA, the class began.


Jitendra Chaudhury said that Tripura was a tribal majority state, ruled by tribal kings for more than 1300 years. It merged with the Indian Union on October 15, 1949. The Partition of India in 1947 severely affected the demographic scene of Tripura due to the huge influx of Bengali population (mainly Hindu) from erstwhile East Pakistan. This reduced the tribals to a minority. At present the tribals comprise 31 per cent of Tripura’s 37 lakh population. During princely rule, feudal exploitation was tremendous. Education and all other social facilities were limited to the feudal lords. Till 1949, there was not a single primary school in the tribal areas, the literacy rate was 3 per cent, there was no health care system, not a single kilometre of road had been built and not a single state welfare scheme existed for the common people.

Under these circumstances, a group of tribal youth led by Comrades Dasaratha Deb and Sudhannya Debbarma, who are popularly known and respected as the apostles of Tripura’s literacy and democratic movement, formed the ‘Janashiksha Samiti’ (Movement for Literacy) on December 27,1945. Despite the lack of support from the feudal lords, the movement gained tremendous momentum, which helped in setting up more than 400 schools, completely based on peoples’ contributions. The Janashiksha Samiti became a democratic movement and formed the ‘Tripura Rajya Gana Mukti Parishad’ (GMP) in May 1948.

In its first public appearance on August 15, 1948, the GMP raised the following slogans: We want a Government elected by the people and the immediate abolition of monarchy; Down with the puppet regime dictated by the Delhi Government; Release of all political prisoners without any pre-conditions; Withdrawal of all warrants against the leaders of the mass movement; Stop the police and military atrocities upon innocent people; None can be arrested without assigning any valid charges; Inquilab Zindabad.

Since then the GMP has been a formidable force in building the left and democratic movement in Tripura. In its long journey of more than six decades, the GMP has always been one of the strongest vanguards of communal harmony, defending the rights of the downtrodden and advocating the ideology of social emancipation. This made it possible to send Communists to the Lok Sabha since 1952 as the voice of the poor and underprivileged.

Jitendra Chaudhury said that from 1949 to 1977, directly or indirectly, Tripura was under Congress rule. That was another form of exploitation. The tribals were the worst victims, besides the non-tribal poor masses. Successive Congress governments continued the same game, dividing the poor people in two camps, tribals and non-tribals, and thus stayed in power till 1977, though they never gained the confidence of the tribals. Tribals were consolidated under the red flag which gradually helped in building the platform of the peasantry, agricultural workers among the non-tribal poor masses. On the other hand, the Congress used the ill-fated migrant Bengali masses as their political trump card to win the elections by instigating them against the GMP and the Left movement, but did not take any welfare measures for their proper rehabilitation.


In 1978, the first Left Front Government led by the CPI(M) came to power in Tripura by sweeping 56 seats out of 60. He then briefly outlined the sterling work done by successive Left Front regimes in spheres like Panchayati Raj; land reforms that benefited tribals and poor non-tribals alike; social welfare schemes like ‘Food for Work’, mid-day meal program for school children, pension to the aged, widows, physically handicapped and destitute women; formation of the Autonomous District Council (TTA-ADC) for tribals; recognition of the mother tongue of the major tribal groups Kok-Borok (Tripuri) as one of the official languages; waiver of land taxes on small and marginal farmers; reservation of 31 per cent Government jobs for tribals in all categories in direct recruitment and all promotional posts; reservation of 31 per cent seats for tribals in all categories of higher and professional education; massive programme of education, literacy and health care; 50 per cent of the total cultivable land and 85 per cent of irrigable land brought under irrigation; no electricity tariff on peasants for irrigation; Land Pattas of more than 1.80 lakh hectares of land given to 1.20 lakh tribal families, which is 97 per cent of the applications received under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), this being the highest number in the country in terms of both the number of beneficiaries and land size; time bound programme to economically develop the FRA beneficiaries through various activities like rubber plantation, horticulture, pisciculture, animal husbandry etc; and an equally impressive implementation of the NREGA.


Jitendra Chaudhury stressed that the TTA-ADC in Tripura is unique in the country. It is unlike the other ADCs in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram, which are constituted within a particular district, safeguarding a particular tribe or community. The TTA-ADC represents all the 19 tribes of Tripura, covering almost the entire tribal inhabited area across all four districts, which comprises 68 per cent of Tripura’s total area.


The State Government has delegated the subjects of Education (Primary Level), Agriculture & Horticulture, PWD, Water Resources, Fisheries, ARDD, Forest (Social Forestry), Social Welfare and Social Education (Non formal education) to the TTA-ADC.


TTA-ADC is comprised of 527 elected Village Committees (Sarpanch/Gram Panchayats), which independently take decisions at the village level and implement all the schemes. The Chairpersons of VCs form Block Advisory Committees in lieu of the intermediary body (Panchayat Samiti) at Block level. 50 per cent of seats in Village Committees are reserved for women. Thus, successive Left Front Governments in the State and the Left-ruled administration in the ADC have been trying their level best to uplift the common people within limited resources, despite the inadequate fund flow from the Central Government.


Jitendra Chaudhury said that although the tribals of Tripura have traditionally been with the Left movement since the early 1950s, the ruthless repression unleashed by successive Congress Governments from 1949 to 1977 and by the Congress-TUJS Alliance Government from 1988 to 1993 has further cemented their inclination towards the Left. The Congress tried to dismantle this unity by means of communal and chauvinist designs, which gave birth to the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) in 1967 and several other groups of extremist outfits. The extremist outfits were fostered by the Congress and TUJS since the mid-1980s. Tribals were the worst victims of extremism.

Division among such organisations, which have come into existence on a communal agenda, is inevitable. The TUJS first split in 1988 and the splinter group formed the THPP.  In 2000 a hardcore group again defected from TUJS and formed the IPFT, which snatched the power of the TTA-ADC (2000 to 2004) under gunpoint. The TUJS (now INPT) again split into three factions INPT, IPFT and NCT. All the splinter groups and formations have direct links with the underground forces. At present two outfits, namely NLFT and ATTF are having their existence and hideouts on Bangladesh soil. But now they are completely marginalized. In the recently concluded Parliamentary elections the INPT and NCT aligned with the Congress, but the IPFT fought independently with the slogan of separate tribal state.


Jitendra Chaudhury concluded by saying that the GMP has been constantly mooring its cadres on ideological issues against sheer tribalism, identity politics and for the need to maintain tribal and non-tribal unity. Besides this the sustained campaign of the State Government  helped generate the atmosphere to attract hundreds of hardcore militants to a normal life. The returnees are socially and economically rehabilitated, which is also unique in the country. The measures of rehabilitation undertaken by the State Government have created a conducive environment to ideologically combat terrorism and hatred.

After a brief question-and-answer hour, CPI(M) state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale who chaired the session, thanked Jitendra Chaudhury for his enlightening presentation that would help to inspire Party activists everywhere to fight and win the bitter battles to come.