Tripura Tribal Protest Paralyzes National Highway: TIPRA Motha Demands Urgent Action on Wild Elephant Attacks and Land Demarcation

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Posted in Featured, Northeast, Tripura
Abhijit Nath, NET Correspondent, Tripura

Agartala, January 29, 2024: In a significant demonstration of dissent, a contingent of tribal individuals affiliated with the Opposition TIPRA Motha party orchestrated a blockade on National Highway 8 in Mungiakami under Khowai district. The protest, which endured for nearly five hours on Monday, was fueled by a demand for the government to promptly demarcate plots allocated to beneficiaries under the Forest Rights Act. The tribal group, led by TIPRA Motha’s Mungiakami block president Mahendra Debbarma, also sought enhanced protection for local villagers grappling with frequent wild elephant attacks in the region.

Addressing the media, Mahendra Debbarma highlighted the severity of the issue, citing approximately 26-27 wild elephant attacks in the past year. Many of these incidents, he claimed, went unreported as they occurred in areas like rubber plantations and paddy fields. Expressing concern over the lack of concrete action, Debbarma asserted that reports of such incidents had been conveyed to forest officials with insufficient response.

Furthermore, Debbarma emphasized that numerous tribal people in the vicinity, who have a traditional connection to the forests, are yet to see their designated plots officially marked by forest authorities. The road blockade, initiated at 9 am, persisted until 1.45 pm, during which local officials, including the sub-divisional magistrate, engaged with the protesters. According to Debbarma, the district magistrate also communicated with them over the phone.

Later in the evening, senior TIPRA Motha leader Manihar Debbarma shed light on the prevalence of wild elephant attacks in various constituencies, such as Kalyanpur-Pramodnagar and Krishnapur Assembly areas. The party’s decision to block the national highway was framed as a deliberate effort to draw attention to the escalating instances of human-animal conflicts and the unresolved status of land demarcation under the Forest Rights Act. This unresolved issue reportedly poses challenges for tribal communities that traditionally practice shifting cultivation or ‘jhum’ for sustenance.

Notably, on January 20, Tripura Forest Minister Bikash Debbarma visited parts of Khowai district in response to a wild elephant attack on a family. Despite assurances to address human-animal conflicts, another attack occurred within 24 hours in Chakmaghat, causing damage to property. The state, according to a previous report from the Tripura Forest Department, is home to 102 elephants, including 42 in the wild and 60 in captivity. A recent elephant survey is pending finalization.

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