Tribal strife torments Tripura
People of insurgency-hit Tripura, like in many other N-E states, have endured thousands of abductions and hundreds of killings.india Updated: Jul 22, 2003 10:35 IST
Like many other states in India's insurgency hit north-east, the people of Tripura have over the last five years endured thousands of abductions and hundreds of killings.
Most of this violence has been carried out by the two main separatist rebel groups, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF).
Tripura is one of India's seven north-eastern states, sometimes known as the seven sisters.
It has a population of around three million - three-quarters of whom are Bengali-speaking settlers whose families mostly arrived in the state after the partition of India in 1947.
Both the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force say they want independence for tribal areas of the state, which exist in all of Tripura's four districts.
Both have been been banned by the BJP-led Indian central government.
In support of their goal both groups have kidnapped political opponents and launched violent attacks on the Bengali speaking community: nearly 150 have been killed this year alone.
However, it is here that the similarities between the two rebel groups end.
The NLFT is larger and better armed. It says it is fighting not only for the removal of Bengali immigrants from the tribal areas, but also for the tribal areas of the state to become overtly Christian.
The NLFT has warned members of the tribal community that they may be attacked if they do not accept its Christian agenda.
The rivalry between the groups was clearly seen recently when the NLFT and the ATTF clashed in the jungles of Bangladesh. An ATTF commander was killed.
It is estimated that around half of Tripura's 200,000 tribal community are Christian and support the NLFT.
It is unclear where the loyalties of non-Christian tribals lie, partly because it has been alleged that they have been coerced into supporting the NLFT.