Tripura Announces Special Package for Minorities

In an attempt to strengthen the wilting Muslim support base of the party, the CPM-led Tripura government has decided to offer a special development package for the community. This New Year package, worth Rs 150 crore, is planned to be spent in 72 Muslim-concentration areas in the state over the next three years.

Written by

DR. SYED AHMED

Published on

In an attempt to strengthen the wilting Muslim support base of the party, the CPM-led Tripura government has decided to offer a special development package for the community. This New Year package, worth Rs 150 crore, is planned to be spent in 72 Muslim-concentration areas in the state over the next three years.

Government officials said all the areas identified for special development drive fall in West, North and South Tripura districts where the Muslim population is 30 per cent or more. He further added that the selection has been made on the index of socio-economic backwardness of the population in the identified areas.

The special package envisages improvement in road connectivity, electrification, construction of markets, irrigation facilities and development of school education system and infrastructure, and upgrade of general infrastructure in all the identified minority-concentration areas.

Government officials expressed that while providing better infrastructure and other facilities, the government would also include programmes for modernisation and upgrade of madrasa education, elevating junior madrasa to senior level. However, the development package, according to officials, will benefit not only the Muslims but also other sections of people living in the targeted areas, as there will be general infrastructure development.

Government officials claim that long before the Sachar Committee submitted its report on the socio-economic and educational condition of the Muslims in the country (titled Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India – A Report (2006)) the Left government had initiated an administrative survey to ascertain the socio-economic condition of the state’s Muslim community.

Muslims are the largest minority community in the state. The community accounts for 8 per cent of the total population of the state. Muslims have the highest concentration in the North Tripura district. The religious distribution of the state is given in the table below:

 

ReligionPopulationPercentage
Hindus2,739,31085.6
Muslims254,4428.0
Christians102,4893.2
Sikhs1,1820.0
Buddhists98,9223.1
Jains4770.0
Others1,2770.0

Source: 2001 Census

 

The history of Muslim settlement in the region dates back to the late 17th century when the Muslims from adjoining districts of Naokhali, Chittagong, Dacca, Sylhet, etc. entered the lowland plains of Tripura. These farmer migrants were pushed by the heavy pressure of agricultural population on land in their native districts. However, the intrusion became more intense after the lowland plains came under the control of the Muslim Nawabs of Bengal in 1733 C.E. The region, renamed as Chakle Roshnabad, was rented to the ruler of Tripura, who held the region in the form of zamindar estate. The zamindari area covered an area of 589 sq. miles.

Interestingly, within a short period after Tripura came under the Muslim occupation a Muslim Zamindar named Shamser Gazi claimed the royal throne of Tripura and managed to rule for 12 years (1748-60 C.E.). During his rule the migration of Muslims from the neighbouring districts increased manifold. His rule is regarded by historians as one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of medieval Tripura.

Shamser Gazi proved to be an efficient ruler and is also remembered for his secular administrative policies. He employed both Hindus and Muslims for important administrative posts. He regulated prices in the kingdom. Shamser Gazi is also remembered for his great public works. For the welfare of his subjects he excavated tanks and rented lands to Hindus and Muslims of Roshnabad. He also built a Kali temple near his residence and established a madrasa at Udaipur, an important town of Tripura. He also built numerous forts near the Feni River.

Gazi paid huge amount of money regularly to the Nawabs of Bengal as tribute. In order to solve the financial difficulties, he extorted money from the rich that were distributed to the poor. The wealthy section complained against him to the Viceroy of Bengal. Shamser Gazi was arrested and brought to Murshidabad. The governor of Chittagong blew up Shamser Gazi by a canon at Rangpur in 1760 C.E. and one of the descendants of Manikyas (ruling dynasty), Krishnamoni, regained the throne.

Under the British rule also the region remained to be held like any other zamindari estate. By 1872, out of the total population of Tripura plain Muslims constituted 64.8 per cent, while Hindus accounted for just 28.5 per cent. By 1901, the percentage of Muslim population increased to 71 per cent, while Hindus increased to 29 per cent.

It is worth noting that the population of Muslims shows a sharp decline from the 1960s. In the census of 1961 Muslim constituted 20.14 per cent, however, it came down to just 6.68 per cent in 1971. The sharp decline of the Muslim population was due to their immigration to Bangladesh in the wake of war of independence of Bangladesh. There was also heavy influx of Hindu population to Tripura during the period.

Today, Muslims are the most socially, economically and educationally backward community in the state. A majority of Muslims in the state are concentrated in the rural areas. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for them. As per the 2001 census, out of the total Muslim workforce 30.3 per cent are cultivators while 27.7 per cent are agricultural labourers. Just 1.6 per cent of the Muslims are engaged in house-hold activities, while 40.4 per cent are engaged in other activities, which includes service sector.

However, Muslims’ representation in government jobs is very low. The overall work-participation rate of the community is just 29.2 per cent (male 46.2 per cent, female 11.2 per cent), while the state’s average is 36.2 per cent (male 50.6 per cent, female 21.1 per cent). The literacy of the Muslims is just 60.9 per cent (male 69.7 per cent, female 51.4 per cent), while the state’s average is 73.2 per cent (male 81 per cent, female 64.9 per cent). A majority of Muslims in the state are confined in the most backward areas, which lack basic amenities, like potable water, basic health-care facilities and access to the primary education.