TRIPURAINFO

 

          IPFT supremo N. C. Debbarma demands CBI inquiry into journalist murder, to go it alone in assembly polls, no tie-up with any major party for the elections, ‘Twipraland’ for all.

 

Octogenarian Narendra Chandra Debbarma personifies controversy and suspense in Tripura’s present political context. A retired director of the All India Radio (AIR),Agartala, Narendra Chandra Debbarma has been a veteran warrior for Tripura’s indigenous peoples cause, making and unmaking parties and groups. His demand for separate ‘Twipraland’ state proposed to be carved out of the ADC areas encompassing 68.10% of the state’s geographical territory has stirred a hornet’s nest with all other parties firmly opposing the demand and a section advocating a softer option. But Narendra remains unwavering in his conviction that a separate state alone can preserve and protect the distinctive identity, traditional culture of the indigenous people. This demand, voiced first in an organized manner since the creation of the Telengana state in 2013, now finds veteran Narendra in the eye of a storm, specially in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of a journalist allegedly by IPFT workers on Wednesday last (20th September). But the octogenarian has his justifications for the ‘Twipraland’ state demand even as he unequivocally condemns the killing of Santanu Bhowmik, a cable TV journalist . In the following informal chat Narendra Chandra Debbarma spoke his mind to tripurainfo.com.

 

 

Question: The killing of a TV channel journalist allegedly by IPFT workers has dealt heavy blow to the peace in the state. How do you look at the issue?

 

Answer: This is a highly condemnable act alien to democratic ethos. We are ‘relooking’ at the entire gamut of organizational issues and shall streamline things. This, I think, is an adverse by-product of the general movement for ‘Twipraland’ but we will definitely try to take a fresh look at the entire matter as such things are impermissible in a democracy. But the investigation is on and let us await the outcome. Unless incidents like these are curbed the cause of our party will suffer only. We also demand that a CBI inquiry be instituted into the killing so that the truth comes out in the open.

 

Question: Many people and parties have expressed reservations over the ‘Twipraland’ state demand raised by IPFT. How would you justify the demand and why is it necessary?

 

Answer: Well, Telengana state came into being by a decision of centre in 2013. In Tripura you know how we have been reduced to a minority in our homeland. Our numbers may go down further in the next census and we may ultimately end up as an extinct race.   So we need constitutional safeguard for our distinctive identity and traditional culture and only a separate state can guarantee this because in a separate state the Centre will take care of our fund requirements and autonomous power conferred by the constitution can be enjoyed and exercised. You know that Tripura’s last king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya had set aside land exclusively for tribals in two instalments in 1931 and 1943 but this was undone to accommodate refugees. So what remains of tribal land in Tripura is the present ADC area which we want elevated to the status of full-fledged state because the left front has rendered the ADC dysfunctional. The ADC’s legislative power is severely restricted and it can do nothing unless ratified by the state government. Actually, as per constitution the ADC is empowered to legislate on issues within the parameters of the constitution and the governor is required to assent this for turning the legislation into law. This is exactly what happens in other ADCs like Karbi Anglong and North Cachar hills but here the state government comes in between and aborts all bills passed by the ADC.

 

Question: Can you cite specific instances of state government coming in the way of ADC’s bills and legislations? If such things happen, why so?

 

Answer: The ADC had been first constituted in 1982 under the 5th and 7th schedule of the constitution, practically without any effective power. It was like a Municipality. Then the 49th amendment of the constitution had been passed on August 23 1984 and 6th schedule was extended but the spirit of the 6th schedule has never been in play here. In order to cite a specific instance I can say that in the year 2007 the ADC authority had passed a ‘Land Management Bill’ for exercising its constitutionally vested power of regulating land but the state government rejected this out of hand as out of purview of the ADC’s power. Then in 2016 the ADC authority passed a ‘Town Committee Bill’ to constitute elected urban bodies in urban and semi-urban areas but this bill has also been kept in hold though it is very much within the power conferred by 6th schedule of the constitution that ADCs can form ‘Town Committees’.As per constitutional provisions, bills passed by ADC should go directly to the governor for his assent on the basis of constitutional validity but in Tripura the state government chips into the matter through the constitutional provision that the government is to ‘act upon the aid and advice of the state government’. This is a wrong interpretation as far as ADCs based on 6th schedule are concerned. The ADC is also not permitted to exercise the limited judicial power granted by the constitution. My considered view is that the CPI (M) do all this because it is a party which believes in and practices the highest form of centralization in all matters ; they never believe in decentralization of power even to constitutional bodies .

Therein lies the need for a separate ‘Twipraland’ state which will enable the indigenous people to decide their own fate by exercising full political and administrative power. Since independence many states-big or small-have been created in the country, so there is no harm in adding to the list by creating a ‘Twipraland’ state. There may be inclusion or exclusion of areas to and from the ‘Twipraland’ state we demand. Besides, various central schemes are not implemented in an optimum manner in the hilly areas to the detriment of indigenous people. Many instances can be cited on this aspect also.

 

Question: What will happen to the areas lying beyond ADC? Will it be possible to create another full-fledged state there?

 

Answer: That is for the centre to decide-whether to create a separate state or union territory. Puducherry is a union territory which is not even contiguous in terms of areas under its jurisdiction. But I can say that the ‘Twipraland’ state will be for all, not exclusively meant for a particular section of people. This is neither possible nor desirable in India. So nobody has anything to fear from our demand for ‘Twipraland’ state.

 

Question: What is your assessment of the role of Centre and what will be the IPFT’s role in the upcoming assembly elections? Any tie-up with a major party?

 

Answer: We are disappointed with the role of union home ministry because when our road blockade programme was on in the second week of July a group of our leaders were camping in Delhi to place our demand. We were given an assurance that a meeting with union home ministry would take place on July 18 and were also kept waiting but on that date we were informed that no meeting would come about. We were asked, in stead, to meet the governor Tathagata Roy and we did go to the Raj Bhawan. The talks were cordial and the governor was briefed in detail about our demands and standpoints. He also addressed a letter to the union home ministry explaining the rationale of our demand and requested for kind intervention of home ministry in the matter; the copy of his letter was made available to us also but till today nothing has happened. So we are now going alone and will have not tie-up with any party for the upcoming assembly polls. We can win 10-12 seats out of twenty reserved for scheduled tribes though we will also put up candidates for some of the 10 seats reserved for scheduled castes for which talks are on.

 

Question: There seems to be a division in your party’s ranks with former MLA Rajeshwar Debbarma and senior leader Budhu Debbarma singing in a different tone. It is also in the grapevine that BJP has paid you a lot to keep up the movement till the elections. What is your reaction?

 

Answer: As for Rajeshwar and Budhu and on the canards they spread I do not wish to comment. They are hungry for only power and having failed to achieve the organizational position and power they now speak in a contradictory manner. To the charge that I have received payments from the BJP, all that I can say is that it is ‘totally and absolutely false, baseless and malicious’. I have nothing to do with BJP and payment of money. In fact this charge, being spread by the CPI (M) also, is aimed at tarnishing my image and that of IPFT but it will not work. Every day our ranks are now swelling with workers and supporters of Gana Mukti Parishad (GMP) joining IPFT formally in different parts of the state. This alone shows the extent to which we have been able to increase and expand our support base among the indigenous people of Tripura. Please also remember that in the ADC elections held last in 2015 we had been able to reduce 10% of CPI (M)’s votes in the tribal dominated ADC areas, so we have nothing to worry as our support base is expanding rapidly and this will be reflected in the poll outcome in February 2018.