Tripura’s tribal majority demography underwent
a sea change as a result of unhindered migration from
former East Bengal and subsequently from Bangladesh.
The tribals were pushed to the hills, and the politics
and administration in the State was dominated by the
Bengali speaking locals and migrants. Insurgency started
as a protest movement against this phenomenon. The first
organized-armed tribal movement Sengkrak originated
in mid 1960s as a reaction to settling down of non-tribal
refugees in the tribal reserve forest areas. The movement
ended in 1968.
Subsequently, Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawal founded the Tripura
National Volunteers (TNV). This outfit dissolved in
December 1980 was later revived on November 10, 1982.
TNV continued its activities till the signing of a tripartite
agreement on August 12, 1988, paving the way for the
surrender of the TNV cadres. Another militant outfit,
the All Tripura People’s Liberation Organization
(ATPLO) remained active between December 1980 and July
The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was
founded in March 1989 by certain disgruntled TNV cadres
led by Dhananjoy Reang. The NLFT, since then, has undergone
several splits. The outfit’s leadership and cadres
are mostly based in Bangladesh. The NLFT’s dominant
faction led by Biswamohan Debbarma remains one of the
two active outfits in Tripura. The other outfit, in
addition to the NLFT, which has steadfastly refused
to be drawn into any peace deal with the government,
is the Ranjit Debbarma-led All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF),
found in July 1990 as All Tripura Tribal Force. In fact,
the ATTF had signed a memorandum of understanding with
the Tripura government on August 23, 1993. However,
a faction led by Ranjit Debbarma decided to carry on
their armed campaign. Over the years, the outfit has
found shelter in Bangladesh and indulges in hit and
run campaigns inside Tripura. Even today, the Tripura
People's Democratic Front (TPDF), the political wing
of ATTF is engaged in activities against the state.
Another militant outfit active in the state is the
Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT). It came into
existence in 1997 and is a sister organization of the
NLFT. It mostly manages the abduction and extortion
activities of NLFT, mainly in the North Tripura and
Though insurgency-related activities are declining
in the state, incidents of violence are still occurring.
The most prominent was the serial blasts in the state
capital, Agartala on October 1, 2008. In this incident,
four blasts took place in a span of 45 minutes in Radha
Nagar, Gol Bazaar, GB Bazaar and Krishna Nagar localities
of Agartala, injuring 74 persons. No organization claimed
responsibility but subsequent investigations showed
the involvement of ATTF and HuJI, a Bangladeshi terror
outfit, in the blasts.
Between 1992 and 2010 (till July 31), at least 3,479
insurgency related fatalities were reported from Tripura.
Effective police action since late 2002, however, has
managed to weaken the outfits, leading to a sharp decline
in the insurgency related fatalities. Compared to 296
fatalities in 2003, the year 2009 recorded only 11 fatalities.
Once known as the abduction centre of the Northeast,
Tripura has reported abduction of only 11 civilians
in 2009 and no abductions during the first seven months
of 2010. In 2006, 43 persons were abducted of whom 31
were released and one killed by the militants.
Differences between the NLFT and the ATTF, however,
persist and despite some reports of a possibility of
collaboration, both continue to operate independently.
Attacks are primarily targeted at security force personnel,
political party workers belonging to the Communist Party
of India-Marxist and businessmen. In the past, the outfit
used to attack the workers employed in the laying of
railway tracks. However, such attacks have been reduced
after police started providing security to such projects.
In February 2007, State Transport Minister Manik Dey
said that the State government has spent Rs 400 million
for providing necessary security to railway line construction
workers from Manu to Agartala.
On March 12, 2009, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said
in the State Assembly that between 2006 and 2008, as
many as 871 militants belonging to the ATTF, NLFT and
BNCT have surrendered to the security forces. He also
said that approximately 180 to 200 NLFT and 80 to 90
ATTF militants are still underground. Because of the
counter insurgency operations going on in the state,
bulk of the cadres and the leadership of the militant
outfits are staying in Bangladesh.
With the top leadership and majority of the cadres
of the two militant outfits based in Bangladesh, the
latter remains vital to any policy as far as ending
militancy in Tripura is concerned. After the victory
of the Awami League party in the Parliamentary elections
in Bangladesh in December 2008, the newly elected Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed assured that the territory
of Bangladesh would not be allowed to be used to launch
terrorist strikes in India. This gave further impetus
towards the end of insurgency in Tripura.
On 29 November 2009, NLFT supremo Biswamohan Debbarma
was arrested by personnel of Director General Force
Intelligence (DGFI), the Bangladeshi intelligence agency
from a posh area of Dhaka. This was a big blow for the
outfit. The freedom that the insurgent outfits of India
enjoyed in Bangladesh was also curtailed by the new
Bangladesh government. Subsequent counter insurgency
operations against these outfits also weakened them,
which led to demoralization of its cadres and leading
to large scale surrenders. In 2009, a total of 215 militants
surrendered in Tripura. This included 119 from BNCT,
53 from NLFT, 41 from ATTF and two from unidentified
Official measures for ending insurgency through creating
more avenues for the tribals include the 1979 Tripura
Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council legislation.
This was meant to assuage the feelings of alienation
and deprivation among the tribals. Its impact on insurgency
and the polarization of communities in the State has,
however, been limited.
In 1987, the TNV leader, Bijoy Hrangkhawal contacted
the then Mizoram Chief Minister, Lalthanhawla, to secure
an ‘honourable settlement’ with the government.
The agreement however, had to wait for a year till a
Congress-led government assumed power in the State.
A tripartite peace accord was signed on August 10, 1988,
ending the TNV insurgency. The Left Front government
in 1993 negotiated a bipartite settlement with the ATTF,
leading to the surrender of a bulk of its cadres. The
re-constituted ATTF and the NLFT have, however, been
entirely opposed to any form of negotiated settlement
with the government.
The most recent success of the government in weakening
the NLFT has been the surrender of the Nayanbashi Jamatiya
and Montu Koloi factions of the outfit. On April 15,
2004, Nayanbashi Jamatiya signed a ceasefire agreement
following a tripartite meeting with the central and
the State government representatives in New Delhi. Although
Nayanbashi subsequently abandoned the peace process
and fled to Bangladesh, his cadres stayed on and availed
the benefits of the surrender cum rehabilitation scheme.
Another NLFT factional leader Montu Koloi too joined
the New Delhi peace talks and following a ceasefire
agreement 72 cadres of the faction surrendered on May
The ATTF in 2004 outlined three conditions for the
beginning a process of dialogue. The conditions were:
1. Those who had entered Tripura after 1949 and whose
names did not figure in the voters list of 1952 should
be declared as foreigners.
2. The issue of sovereignty must figure in the negotiation
3. A representative of the Unrepresented Nations and
People’s Organisation (UNPO)—a non-government
global body seeking to represent the interest of indigenous
communities worldwide—should be present during
the peace talk.
These conditions were however, rejected by the State
Jamatiya Hoda, the Supreme Council of the Jamatiya
tribe, the third largest tribal group in Tripura, led
the most manifest peace movement in the State, in the
form of popular opposition to terrorism. At the 410th
conference of the Hoda on December 13, 2000, tribal
leaders resolved not to pay any kind of ‘tax’
to the insurgent outfits operating in the State. The
Hoda was opposed to NLFT’s forced conversion drive
and constant threats and intimidation. On February 13,
2001, the Jamatiya Hoda pledged support to the government
in its fight against insurgency. Success of the counter-insurgency
operations, however, has pushed the civil society efforts
to the background in recent times.
Peace in Tripura can be mainly attributed to the successful
counter insurgency operations in the state. The security
forces have been able to reduce the insurgency-related
activities to a great extent. In order to deal with
the problem of insurgency, Tripura Police has adopted
a multi pronged strategy, taking upon itself the responsibility
to be the main strike force against the insurgents.
The army and the paramilitary acted in coordination
with the police but as back-up teams really.
During the last few years, incidents related to extremist
violence have shown a sharp decline and the number of
kidnapping and extremist killing has also reduced substantially.
The number of militants surrendering to the security
forces has also increased.
A report of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in June
2009 shows Tripura standing third lowest in insurgency-related
incidents in the northeastern region after Mizoram and
Meghalaya. Tripura is also starting to attract investors,
both domestic and foreign, as insurgency is on a decline
and developmental activities are on a rise in the state.