The issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is spreading to Tripura as well, with tribal-based parties agitating for an NRC updation exercise in the state with 1951 as the cut-off year.
Tripura's three tribal-based parties—Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) and National Conference of Tripura (NCT)—have started holding rallies and demonstrations to press their demand that the NRC be updated.
“We would again organise a five-hour demonstration on June 28 in Agartala to press for our demands. A similar demonstration would be held in New Delhi in September,” said INPT President Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl.
He said: “If the other parties want to hold the agitation jointly, we are ready to do so. Earlier, in support of our demands, we have organised agitations, including a shutdown along with IPFT and NCT.”
The INPT, IPFT and NCT have also been demanding withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which is currently under review by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
These parties are also demanding introduction of an innerline permit to protect indigenous tribals, giving more power to the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), restoration of alienated tribal lands and inclusion of tribals' Kokborok language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
IPFT Vice President Ananta Debbarma said that they had organised rallies in tribal areas, including at the TTAADC headquarters in Khumulwng, in May, in support of NRC and some other demands.
"We would soon hold a meeting of our party and decide our next course of action on NRC, Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and other demands," said Debbarma.
The IPFT is the junior ally in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led alliance government in Tripura, while the INPT is one of the oldest tribal parties in the state. It was formed in 2002 by merging three Tripura parties, including the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (TUJS) and Tripura National Volunteers (TNV).
The TUJS was formed in 1967, while the erstwhile militant outfit TNV became a political party in 1988 following a tripartite agreement with the central and state governments. The INPT, IPFT and the NCT in February last year formed the All Tripura Indigenous Regional Parties Forum (ATIRPF) and spearheaded various agitations across the state in support of their demands.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, seeks to enable Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who have fled to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh without valid travel documents or those whose valid documents expired in recent years, to acquire Indian citizenship through the process of naturalisation.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress are also opposed to the Centre's citizenship Bill.
"The CPI(M) is also opposed to the Bill and supports the Indira-Mujib pact which determined March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date to detect illegal infiltration into India from Bangladesh," said CPI(M)'s Chief Whip in the Lok Sabha and senior tribal leader Jitendra Chaudhury.
"We have not yet discussed about the NRC in Tripura. However, people, particularly the minorities, are being harassed in Assam while conducting hearings on NRC," said Chaudhury, who is also National Coordinator of the CPI(M)-backed Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and President of the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad—a frontal body of the CPI(M).
The second draft of the Supreme Court-monitored NRC in neighbouring Assam would be published on June 30, while the first NRC draft was made available to the people on December 31, after inclusion of names of 1.9 crore people of the total 3.29 crore applicants in the BJP-ruled state.
The NRC Assam, the register containing names of Indian citizens in the state, was prepared in 1951 as a non-statutory process by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during the 1951 census.
The Assam agitation (1979-85) against foreigners settling in the state led to the signing of Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, between the Centre, the state government, the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), which stipulated March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal migrants from East Pakistan (Bangladesh).
Accordingly, the Citizenship Act, 1955, was amended by inserting Section 6A as a special provision for Assam.
In a tripartite meeting between the Centre, the state government and AASU, chaired by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May 2005, it was agreed to update the NRC of 1951. The modalities were approved by the government of India in consultation with the government of Assam.
After the Supreme Court's directive, the exercise of NRC updation in Assam commenced in December 2013, to be completed over a period of three years. The apex court is closely supervising the progress of NRC update and has given various directions from time to time.
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