One would be surprised when after decades some hidden facts of the history are revealed: on 5 November 2014, Manik Sarkar, the former Chief Minister and a Marxist leader made a statement that a section of the then ruling Tripura royal family had tried to merge the erstwhile Princely State with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). It is also a known fact that Sir Akbar Hyderi, the then Governor of Assam had to take drastic actions under the instructions from Sardar Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister who headed the Home Ministry and the States Ministry, not only for Tripura but also for Manipur Princely State for merger with India. Of course, the Maharaja of Tripura Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya had already made up his mind to join the Indian Union before he died on 17 May 1947, leaving his Maharani Kanchanprava Devi, the princess of the Panna State, to fulfill his dream. Even according to V.P. Menon, the Secretary of the States Ministry, Bodhchandra Singh, the last Maharaja of Manipur, was compelled to sign the Instrument of Accession on 21 September 1949 at Shillong by Sir Hyderi and the controversy about it has not died down even today.
“Tripura merged with the Indian Union in September 1949. Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya, Tripura's last king, had decided to merge with the Indian Union in April 1947. But he died and a regency council headed by his widow, Kanchanprava Devi, was formed to look after the administration, as the coronated prince, Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya, was a minor. In compliance with his will, Kanchanprava, on behalf of her minor son, signed the Instrument of Accession,” writes Sudipta Bhattacharjee in The Telegraph and adds: “However, palace intrigues followed, with Mohammed Abdul Barik Khan alias Gedu Mia, the leader of the Anjuman Islamia group and a stooge of the late king's step-brother, Durjay Kishore Debbarman, trying to merge Tripura with East Pakistan. The plot, however, was leaked and Tripura merged with the Indian Union in 1949.”
Maharaja Bir Bikram was not only a great modernizer but also epitomized fairness and balance in governance. He rushed to parts of eastern Bengal to save Bengalis during riots and gave them important positions in his administration. He also created the Tribal Reserve to protect tribal land and identity anticipating the flood of Bengali refugees who would rush to Tripura to escape persecution after partition. The Maharaja was also a patriot and had given clear directives to his wife to join the Indian Union when the country became free, unlike many Princely States which were averse to join the Union and had to be forced into it. Pradyot Manikya Bikram Debbarma, the grand son of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya is revered as the “Maharaja” by people of Tripura even today. He is actively involved in politics but had refused the offer to be the Chief Ministerial candidate of BJP in 2014 stating ideological differences. He was the Working President of the Tripura Congress then but has left Congress to head an alliance of various organisations.
The Regent Maharani Kanchanprabha Devi, because Maharaja Kirit Bikram was a minor, had no hesitation signing the instrument of accession to join the Indian Union. She had met Sardar Patel with her father, the Maharaja of Panna, seeking help securing her interests in favour of India. Patel wrote to Sir Akbar Hyderi, the then Governor of Assam to take prompt action. She was given security at Shillong. With the active support from Sardar Patel and Sir Hyderi, she foiled the machinations of the likes of Abdul Barik alias Gedu Mia of Anjuman-e-Islamia who wanted Tripura to be merged with Pakistan. That cruel fate befell neighbouring Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) where the Rajbari failed to back the likes of Sneha Kumar Chakma when they fought for merger with India.
Subir Bhaumik, an eminent journalist, writes in “Tripura: Ethnic Conflict, Militancy and Counterinsurgency”: “An Islamic party, the Anjuman-e-Islamia, led by a rich contractor Abdul Barik, alias Gedu Miah, had managed to win the support of some leading palace nobles like Durjoy Karta for his plans to merge Tripura with East Pakistan. He had strong support from Muslim League, which had been bolstered by its effortless takeover of Chittagong Hill Tracks (CHT), despite strong local resistance. But determined action by all political parties and ethnic organisations foiled Barik’s conspiracy and Regent Maharani Devi moved rather swiftly to sign the Instrument of Accession that made Tripura a part of the Indian Union on 15 October 1949.
Even S.P. Sinha in his book “Lost Opportunities: 50 years of Insurgency in the North-east and India’s”, describes the chronology of Tripura merging with India after foiling the well planned conspiracy: “Durjoy Kishore, a member of the royal family was conspiring with Abdul Barik, the richest businessman of Tripura at that time, and a supporter of the Muslim League. Durjoy was frustrated in his efforts to seize the throne after the death of the Raja. The queen, Rani Kanchanprabha (prava), acting with great alacrity aborted Durjoy’s designs of ‘possible Kashmir type operation in Tripura’.
The people of Tripura, even today, love and respect both the last ruling Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya and Maharani Kanchanprava Devi. Recently, the Agartala airport is named after the Maharaja.
Next Column: Portuguese Goa becomes part of India
1.Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya of Tripura
2.Maharani Kanchanprava Devi who merges
3.Tripura, the Indian state surrounded by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)