AGARTALA: For 70-year-old Durjoy Debbarma in Tripura, the “Bubagra” is the saviour. The royal scion Pradyot Manikya Debbarma is the Bubagra, which translates into king in English. He heads the tribe-based political party TIPRA Motha, influential in the 20 seats reserved for the STs in the tribal areas. The state has 60 seats.
As Tripura prepares for the February 16 Assembly elections, Pradyot is carrying the separate ‘Greater Tipraland’ state dream of 19 ethnic communities. According to Census 2011, the state has a population of 36.74 lakh – 31.8% of them are tribals.
The former princely state was ruled by the erstwhile royalty of the Manikya dynasty before its merger with the Indian Union in 1949. The TIPRA Motha demands the creation of Greater Tipraland by slicing off Tripura’s nearly 70% tribal-dominated areas.
“Kingship has been replaced by democracy but we still consider the Bubagra as the owner of this land. He had floated TIPRA Motha (in 2019) after realising that the tribals of Tripura might be wiped out gradually. He is our saviour,” Durjoy, a tribal from Patni, a town in Tripura West district, about 35km from state capital Agartala, told this newspaper. Durjoy’s eyes lit up when he spelled out the reasons why tribals in Tripura need a separate state.
“We have remained neglected for nearly 75 years, so we all have decided to support the Raja this election. We had elected his party to power in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council two years ago. The council is trying to do all that it can with the limited funds at its disposal,” says Durjoy.
The council has 30 seats and the election is held in 28 seats (two nominated). The TIPRA Motha had won 18 and BJP 9. One seat went to an Independent. The results are testimony to the tribe-based party gaining popularity in the tribal areas.
The tribals are unanimous on the statehood demand. They are convinced the TIPRA Motha can fight for their cause. Across tribal areas, the buzz is about the party. “We all support the Bubagra. We are certain his party will form the government,” Champa Debbarma, a voter in the Dhalai district, said. On the roads from Mandwi to Patni in West Tripura district and Mandwi to Ambassa in the Dhalai district, groups of tribals were seen hanging out by the roadside, engrossed in some serious discussions. The polls, Bubagra and Greater Tipraland were the topics.
“We have seen the Congress, Left and BJP but we haven’t got our constitutional rights (statehood). We are pinning our hopes on the Bubagra,” says Sadhan Debbarma. Sukesh Debbarma, a native of Mandwi, said the ruling BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) didn’t live up to the tribals’ expectations.
“The present government didn’t solve problems. The tribal areas lack roads and other infrastructure, including educational institutes. The 25-year Left rule (1993-2018) was better. We had more expectations but the BJP failed to deliver,” Sukesh said.