North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] After Assam NRC, troubles may visit ‘sister’ Tripura


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Impact of NRC on Tripura


The National Register of Citizens (NRC) can negatively impact the politics and ethnic unrest alike in North-east India.

Problems with the exercise

  • Assam released a list which could make 1.9 million people stateless. A large number are Hindus. This is proving to be tricky for the government.

  • Both BJP and RSS stands on the proposal to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, would allow non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan the opportunity for naturalization by reducing residency requirements.

Tripura – a background

  • In Tripura, the matter has received focus in an unexpected manner. The largely Bengali population of Tripura, more Hindu than Muslim, are essentially not from Tripura.

  • While many are settlers for a generation or more, some are more recent arrivals.

  • Tripura was not long ago a kingdom. The Manikya kings ruled in a nearly unbroken line from the 15th century.

  • The current titular king, Pradyot, identifies himself as Tiprasa, as the province’s indigenous collective of peoples call themselves.

  • Tiprasa as an identity is more inclusive than Borok because it includes people beyond the Tripuri tribes who have immigrated over the past several centuries.

  • It’s an important nuance because this identity is distinct from Tripura’s overwhelming Bengali identity.

  • In 1949, the queen regent, Kanchan Prava Devi, Pradyot’s grandmother, signed a treaty of accession to India.

  • It stopped being Twipra, the land by the water, jettisoned the British-colonial Hill Tipperah, and emerged fully as the Sanskritized Tripura.

  • Tripura went from being majority indigenous Borok people – Tripuri, Reang, Noatia, Halam and some Meitei (Manipuri) to being majority Bengali.

  • Between 1941 and 1951 the percentage of tribal folk in Tripura dropped from a little over 53% to a little over 37%. By 1981, it had dropped below 30%. The census of 2011 showed the tribal population hovering above 30%.

The arrival of Bengalis

  • Bengalis arrived as refugees from East Pakistan as a result of communal violence years after 1946 and 1947, and wars with India, in waves of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and sometimes, hundreds of thousands.

  • In 1952, close to a quarter of a million refugees poured in.

  • Pakistan’s conflict with India over 1964–1965 drew more than a hundred thousand. Pakistan’s actions in Bangladesh in 1971 opened the floodgates. Tripura’s population of about 1.5 million at the time—already majority Bengali—swelled by a third.

  • Dainik Sangbad, a daily newspaper in Agartala, in mid-1971, estimated refugees at nearly 1.3 million. Nearly all were Bengalis.

  • Tripura took them all in, during what is called the Regency Period, when Kanchan Prava Devi ran affairs on behalf of her minor son from 1947 to Tripura’s formal accession to India in 1949.


The ethnic churn of Tripura’s past and present is evident now. The BJP’s ally in Tripura, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), has also demanded NRC. Pandora’s box is wide open.

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