By extension

An NRC for Tripura will riskcreating new fault lines in the State
Just three months after the final draft of the National Register of Citizens for Assam was released, the Supreme Court has tagged a petition seeking a similar process for Tripura. The petition now tagged to the Assam case was heard by a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, on Monday. The petitioners, a group of activists from Tripura, sought a process to identify illegal migrants and deport them from the State. They maintained that the influx amounted to “external aggression” and that they have turned the tribal people into a minority in their own native land. Much of the migration into Tripura occurred before the creation of Bangladesh. The petition takes recourse to the 1993 tripartite accord signed by the Government of India with the All Tripura Tribal Force that asked for the repatriation of all Bangladeshi nationals who had come to Tripura after March 25, 1971 and are not in possession of valid documents authorising their presence in the State. In fact, the petitioners go even further than the terms of the accord to demand that the cut-off date for the recognition of migrants should be July 1949, based on Article 6 of the Constitution. These demands must be contextualised in the light of the developments in Tripura over the last four decades. As early as in 1979, after years of struggle, the tribal people of the State had gained special autonomy provisions, the institution of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council and recognition of their spoken language, among other assurances. Since then, the empowerment of the council and the protection of tribal rights have steadily eroded the significant tribal versus non-tribal differences that once existed in the State. Over the last three decades, multiple insurgent groups have ended violent struggles — either quelled by force of law or as a result of conceding vital demands for preserving the gains made by earlier tribal struggles. The judicial-bureaucratic process of hearing a petition to seek the deportation of long-settled migrants is fraught with problems, not dissimilar to those already being faced in Assam. The question of what awaits the four million people whose names did not figure in the final NRC draft, and have been given a second chance to prove their antecedents, still hangs in the balance. Notwithstanding the fact that the NRC process in Assam has an overall popular legitimacy across most political parties, there is no answer to how the deportation process could (or should) proceed. Embarking on any such bureaucratic exercise without considering its deep humanitarian impact will only create new fault lines — especially in a State like Tripura where there is no such unanimity of views on the NRC process. It will undo years of work to bring about a reconciliation between Bengali-speaking and tribal people. The Supreme Court should be cognisant of this while hearing the petition.
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