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Tripura tribals fight for religious freedom

Tripura tribals fight for religious freedom

Author: Sanjib Deb
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: April 12, 2001
The rivalry between the two outlawed militant out fits has taken a turn for the worse with the All-Tripura Tiger Force deciding to oppose the proselytisation of the tribal society to Christianity by the National Liberation Front of Tripura. They also urged all sections of people to prevent any such attempt.

In a statement issued on the eve of the Garia Puja, the biggest religious festival of Hindu tribals in Tripura, the ATTF president Mr Ranjit Debbarma said they will take stern action against any attempt to disrupt the festival. The festival is scheduled to begin from April 14 and continue for a week.

Clarifying their position on religious issue the ATTF supremo said, "Everyone is free to practise the religion of his choice." He also criticised the NLFT for interfering with the social affairs of the tribals and forcibly converting people to Christianity. He condemned the NLFT for killing Hindu religious leaders, including popular saint Shanti Kumar Tripura and Vaishnava Mahants Tachhidas Reang and Sanjit Reang, last year. Earlier the NLFT had issued a ban on participation of tribals in any kind of Hindu festival including Garia Puja. It had provoked widespread protest from the tribal society and the Jamatya hoda (Community council), the highest body of the orthodox Hindu tribal Jamatya community, launched air agitation.

The ATTF which was silent over the issue all along appears to have issued the statement in a bid to carry with the popular sentiment of the tribals. However, the police is worried over the new development and is fearing a fresh bout of violence between the two outfits who are already fighting each other over maintaining supremacy in the tribal areas. Meanwhile, the Jamatya Hoda has also decided to defy the NLFT's ban and celebrate the Garia Puja in the traditional way. The governor Lt. Gen. (retired) Krisnamohan Seth will inaugurate the festival in Bagma under the Udaipur subdivision of South Tripura district on April 14.

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