Are the Comilla-origin Tripuras on the verge of extinction?


Hill Voice, 16 August 2023, Comilla: Comilla, once the headquarter of Tripura Maharaja (great king) of Tripura race who were the most influential there, now landless, in the face of eviction off their ancestral homesteads, plagued by poverty, became minority and living with their language and cultural extinction. In such a crucial juncture, a question has been peeping, whether will they survive or disappear gradually?

It is known that albeit, the Tripura ethnicity once lived there with their own language, tradition and ruled the region with power, in the passage of time, today they are struggling to survive in their own land. Having been thrown out from and having lost their jum farming land long ago, this indigenous people are now somehow living in poverty and are unemployed.

It is known that there are about five hundred Tripura families living in four villages in Lalmai and Mainamati Pahar areas in Comilla. Most of them are day labourers. It is said that these indigenous people of the plains have ‘almost lost’ their language and culture and are now used to lead a life like Bengali lifestyle.

A historian and researcher in comilla, Ahsanul Kabir said, “The kings of Tripura once held zamindari in the Comilla region. About a hundred years ago, the ‘Kokborok’ language of the Tripura and their own culture were prevalent in the region. Besides, Bengali language was also prevalent.”

“But in the course of time, their profession, language and culture are almost on the brink of extinction as the entity in this region. Before and after the partition of the country, Many Tripuras migrated from Comilla to Tripura in India.”

Manindra Chandra Tripura, a resident of Salmanpur Tripura village, said, “The Mainamati-Lalmai hill was about 12 km long. On time, the entire area belonged to the Tripuras. But now they are the minority here.”

The local upazila and district administration has built a school in the village last year to protect the mother tongue of Tripura ‘Kokborok’. Manindra Chandra Tripura has been serving as the head teacher there in Tripura Palli Kokborok Matribhasa School.

It is known that once under the Maharajas of Tripura, the people of Tripura were quite well off. They were also majority in number. But after the partition in 1947, the situation got changed. Tripura was annexed to India and Comilla to the then East Pakistan. Then many left the country East Pakistan and went to India.

Historian Ahsanul Kabir said, the capital of Tripura was Udaipur and Comilla was their headquarters. He said that even though the country was partitioned in 1947, the state of Tripura still did not annex to India. They wanted to stay with East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Later, in 1949, Tripura joined India. This researcher commented that there was no single reason why the Tripuras migrated from their homeland, Comilla to India.

According to him, Tripuras migrated for three reasons – economic, religious and psychological. At one time Hindus were the landlords in this region. Later, with the creation of East Pakistan, a rich class of Muslims emerged or flourished, and Hindus were the majority in India after partition.

“For these reasons most of the Tripura community felt that it would be better for them to migrate to India. Apart from this, there is more financial security. Due to these reasons the Tripuras migrated from Comilla region to India at various times.”

Manindra Tripura lamented, “Those who left before and after partition, they are well there! But we could not leave our birthland for love to it. A few days ago, the Prince of Agartala came to see us.”

According to the Tripuras, at various times their lands were occupied, encroached and acquired by the dominant people and the government. Large institutions were built on their land in Comilla.

However, the Tripuras blame the simplicity and ignorance of their forefathers for it. Because, at that time, they did not update their lands for their next generation, prepare documents.

Another person, Dipankar Tripura, said, “Most of the elderly people here are uneducated. But now everyone is sending their children to school to study. About 80 percent children of the village are now studying. We also want to enjoy a better life. For this we need help from the Government.”

Rekha Rani Tripura, a resident of the Palli, urged the government and administration to provide jobs for them as there are about hundred youths in the village. she thinks, “The next generation will be able to live with dignity if the government and administration take the initiative for their employment.”

Sajib Chandra Tripura, President of Salmanpur Tripura Community Welfare Cooperative Society, said, “We have no religious temple, no crematorium.”

Comilla Sadar South Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Rubaiya Khanam said, “I joined here recently. But as far as I know, Tripura rural students are being given scholarships by the government. Apart from this, Kokborok language school has been constructed last year to convey the Kokborok language to the new generation of Tripura children. We hope to work to improve the quality of life of people for rural Tripura.”