Tripura royal scion and one of the foremost leaders protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act from the Northeast, Pradyot Deb Barman, said that he is not anti-Bengali but doesn't want the Centre to overburden the state with more migrants.
Barman earlier moved the Supreme Court challenging the new controversial law. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal is likely to appear on his behalf.
Tripura along with other northeastern states was rocked by massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which enables non-Muslim refugees (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in the country before December 31, 2014, to obtain Indian citizenship.
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Speaking to Express, the head of the Manikya Dynasty said, "We are not against any religion. Neither am I anti-Hindu nor anti-Bengali. The point is how can one state absorb three times its own population while the other states are exempted from it. How much burden can Tripura take? If the government wants to bring in persecuted Hindus, then they must be distributed across the country. There is serious concern for the indigenous people of Tripura. When the state acceded to merge with the Union of India (in 1947) we were promised that the culture, language and ethnicity of Tripura will be protected. Then why is it being disregarded?"
He added that the only way to make the seven sisters safe is for the government of India to reduce the entire burden of the Northeast.
Barman, who was invited to Delhi by the home minister Amit Shah for a discussion on the row, said that the government is not ready to hear their views. "The government is not hearing our views. How can there be a conversation that is one-sided? The Home Minister is not ready to listen to us. Although during the meeting he gave us a lot of assurances, he refused to give them in writing. How difficult is it for the Home Minister to write to the people of Tripura and assure them," he asked.
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Following his meeting with Shah, Barman took to Twitter to announce that he would knock on the apex court's doors challenging the Act.
The former Congress state chief who resigned in September accused the party leadership of not speaking up for the people of Tripura. "I asked my earlier party (Congress) to stand up for us but they refused. This is precisely why I had a fallout with the party. Today, when the entire northeast is on fire, where is the Congress party in the state? My exact allegations were that the Congress and the BJP are speaking in the same voice and I stand correct today."
Asked whether an Inner Line Permit, similar to the one implemented in four other northeastern states would solve the problem, he said, "We don't want Inner Line Permit in Tripura. Why should I stop genuine Indians from entering my state?"
"We should not politicise this. We should speak to civil society. Why should the dialogue be limited with politicians? Why can't there be a civil society committee? As long as the government doesn't engage with civil society, don't implement the law in the northeast," he added.