ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Where to be Left Is No Longer Dissidence

A Reading of Left Politics in Tripura

What does it mean to be left in Tripura today? In retrospect, the success of the left in Tripura depended on the recognition of the contrarian geographical impulses of ethno-nationalism. It is argued that efforts by the left to eradicate these geographies of ethno-nationalism not only implied an abandonment of this mode of dissidence, but also that these efforts ensnared the left into gratuitous, quiet militarisation of the state underthe garb of peace and development.

The author is grateful to the anonymous referee for several helpful comments and suggestions and would like to thank Subendhu Debbarma, for helping with some of the data being used here, and Sanjay Barbora for reading the draft. The usual disclaimers apply.

This year, the Left Front government in Tripura will begin its 25th year in power, largely bolstered by Manik Sarkar’s popularity, who has been at the helm since 1998. Sarkar had taken over from the legendary pioneer of the communist movement in Tripura, Dasarath Debbarma (popularly known as Dasarath Deb), and over the past two decades has been able to transform the left into a formidable force by chipping away at the traditional support base of the Congress, the Bengali Hindus. He also managed to reclaim its traditional stronghold, the Tripuris, by crushing the armed insurgents, who wielded considerable influence in electoral politics. Since the last assembly elections, the Left Front government has been celebrating itself as the harbinger of peace and development. However, these two themes mark certain shifts in the way we talk about politics in Tripura.

I would like to interrogate this shift by looking at two recent events: the commemoration of Dasarath Deb’s 100th birth anniversary, and the violence against members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) by Bengali Hindu residents in Agartala. Though the two incidents are dissimilar, they point to the shift I am concerned with, and by extension, help reflect on what is at stake for left politics there.

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Updated On : 30th May, 2017
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