While Assam and Delhi became epicenters of CAA resistance, the resolute voices of Tripuri people got trampled on in the cacophony of mixed stands of protests. What went wrong? The ignorance of national media, dried hopes of the indigenous tribes or sick politics at play-it’s more than a matter of existence for indigenous Tripuris!
The whole of Northeast India burned in peril in turn of the events that shaped the momentum of CAA. Many might snicker at the thought, but the truth speaks for itself-the Northeast has always been sidelined in the Indian state. And now out of nowhere the so called ‘torch bearers’ -the igniters of our economy want to dump a whole set of outsiders population in the already populated 7 sisters! The people of Northeast have always struggled with their existence with such a diverse ethnic population of 10-20 indigenous communities residing in each of the states. We have always a remained a harmonious region but silence does not mean we will take the toll of immigrants barging in our homes and snatching our lands, our rights, our jobs.
Assam and Tripura which borders Bangladesh on two sides went into a state of frenzy over this sudden bomb. While violent turns of protests and agitations took momentum in Assam, Tripura failed to garner the limelight. The Act sparked both outrage and celebration in the tiny frontier state of Tripura. While firecrackers went off in the Bengali dominated Agartala, the capital city, the tribal dominated hill districts erupted in protests and mayhem. Tripura, which came to be known as a Bengali dominated state, has 19 ethnic communities- the Reangs, Brus, Kokis etc. The atrocious Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) reignited old hostilities and animosity between Bengalis and Tripuri tribal communities, releasing another fresh surge of violence in the state- an internal battle resurfacing again.
On one hand, Tripuris were resolutely protesting in the streets against CAA in the face of an incumbent BJP government, on the other hand their numbers were dwindling by the stroke of midnight as indigenous Tripuris were being picked up from homes, assaulted on the streets, slaughtered and slandered in broad daylight- a part of the package that national media fails to cover. Tripura has been infiltrated by Bangladeshis since partition in 1947 and 1971. The local population of the combined 19 communities has come down to 39% while that of Bengalis shot up to 62% in the last decade and most of the locals are settled in the hills, unable to use their own resources. Their lands have been scorched upon, most of the government jobs are in the hands of refugees or Bengalis, they have to walk miles to access whatever form of education they can get, their markets vandalized either by Bangladeshi refugees or state dominating Bengalis- in short Tripuris cant have a peaceful breath in their own motherland- there’s a constant fear surging inside.
“Homeless in Homeland. Home is where we love-home that out feet may leave but not our hearts and one day I will bring back the light in my homeland, my home.”
– A displaced Tripuri
A Reang student of Jadavpur University recalls his nightmare when he witnessed his uncle slaughtered in the middle of the street and nearby houses torched.
The dust have barely settled in Kanchapur subdivision after two weeks when violent clashes broke between Brus and Hindu Bengalis. “We don’t despise the Bengalis, we are against the influx of Bangladeshi Bengalis. Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own town-there’s no Reang, Kuki, Oraon, Uchai or any similar face in the streets”, an accused said. Tripuris have faced years of indignation, discrimination in their own homeland and like many other issues of Incredible India, it has gone unrecognized by benches of cabinets now and before and the Indian media seems to be tantalizing in its own world of power demographics. Some of the communities are on the brink of extinction, many are leaving their homes and meagre lands for safer routes, they are downgraded to the level of mendicants in the land they were born and raised! They couldn’t tell Indian Bengalis from the Bangladeshi Bengalis-they spoke the same tongue after all. They have no means to retaliate; only passing the days to get out of this rat hole or living this ghastly nightmare every day to the very end with no hopes of a reconciliation. They somewhat resemble the Kashmiri Pandits, only their stories never seem to see the light and maybe would go unsung, untold even years from now.
Voices of dissent did grow in Tripura against CAA, no one would stay silent if your identity is at stake ,but they died down as fast as a bolt of lightning; how could anyone see their family getting killed in front of them and have no one to go to but that’s how their lives are-after all they have gone unknown for decades now. They know their truth, the Northeast know their truth, but will the rest of the world ever get to know it or will they just end up as an extinct population enriching our folklores- the question looms bigger than ever!
Syeda Peenaz Seerat
Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia