1st Edition

Radical Politics and Governance in India's North East The Case of Tripura

By Harihar Bhattacharyya Copyright 2018
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Tripura in India’s Northeast remains the only region in the world which has sustained a strong left radical political tradition for more than a century, in a context not usually congenial for left politics. Tripura is one of the 29 States in India which has returned the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Front repeatedly to power. By contrast, radical ethnic politics dot the political scenario in the rest of the region.

    This book examines the roots, nature, governmental performance, and theoretical and policy implications of left radicalism in Tripura. The case of Tripura is placed in comparison with her neighbours in the region, and in some cases with India’s advanced States in governance matters. Based on original archival and the very recent empirical and documentary sources on the subject, the author shows that the Left in Tripura is well-entrenched, and that it has sustained itself compared to other parts of India, despite deeply rooted ethnic tensions between the aboriginal peoples (tribes) and immigrant Bengalis. The book explains how the Left sustains itself in the social and economic contexts of persistent ethnic conflicts, which are, rarely, if ever, punctuated by incipient class conflicts in a predominantly rural society in Tripura. It argues that shorn of the Indian Marxism’s ‘theoretical’ shibboleths, the Left in Tripura, which is part of the Indian Left, has learned to accommodate non-class tribal ethnicity within their own discourse and practices of government. This study demolishes the so-called ‘durable disorder’ hypothesis in the existing knowledge on India’s Northeast.

    A useful contribution to the study of radical left politics in India in general and state politics in particular, this book will be of interest to researchers of modern Indian history, India’s Northeast, and South Asian Politics.

    Introduction to Radical Politics and Governance in India’s North East 1. Marxism and the National/Ethnic Question: Theory and Practice in India 2. Ethnic Diversity and Ethnic Radicalism in India’s North East 3. Institutionalization of Ethnic Radicalism in India’s North East: Power-Sharing, Participation and Governance 4. Roots of Radical Politics in Tripura: Princely State; Demographic, Social and Economic Transformations 5. The Ethnic Radicalism in Tripura: Reang Rebellion 1943-45 and the birth of an ethnic identity 6. Origins of the Communist Movement in Tripura: Jana Mongal Samity, Jana Shiksha Samity and Paraja Mondal 7. Dialectics of Radical Ethnic Nationalism and Left Radicalism in Tripura, 1948-51: Communist influence over the Tribal Mass Mobilization 8. Radical Ethno-Nationalism in Tripura, 1948-50 9. Left Radicalism turned Parliamentary and Institutionalized in Tripura: Appropriation of Tribal Ethno-nationalism 10. The Rise and Decline of the TUJS in Tripura: Radical Ethnic Challenge to the Left 11. Marxists in Power in Tripura: Sub-State level Institutionalization of Tribal Identity 12. Marxists’ in Power in Tripura: Dilemmas of Governance in Tripura since the 1990s Conclusion


    Harihar Bhattacharyya is Professor of Political Science, University of Burdwan, India. He has published extensively on aspects of Indian political processes and institutions, comparative federalism, social exclusion, citizenship, ethnicity and nationhood. His recent publications by Routledge include Federalism in Asia: India, Pakistan and Malaysia (2010), The Politics of Social Exclusion in India: Democracy at the Crossroads (co-edited, 2010) and Globalization and Governance in India: New Challenges to Society and Institutions (co-edited, 2015).

    This is an excellent study of the highly complex historical trajectory of political life in Tripura. Its distinctiveness lies in the fact that it analyzes Tripura's radical politics in the broader context of the general dominance of the politics of ethnic identities in India’s Northeastern region. Based on an interesting methodological combination of archival-historical research and empirical ethnographic observation, this study offers a nuanced and complex understanding of the paradox of the remarkably durable electoral success of a Left party in a region dominated by identity-based mobilization.

    Sudipta Kaviraj, Professor of Indian Politics and Intellectual History and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University, New York, USA

    Professor Harihar Bhattacharyya is the most distinguished Indian political scientist working on Tripura. This volume provides a rich and informed understanding of radical politics in a state and region that has been neglected by mainstream specialists for too long. Professor Bhattacharyya is to be commended for his painstaking effort in challenging the conventional assumptions about Tripura and the north-east region. A must-read volume for all those interested in radical politics and the governance challenges facing the north-east states.

    Gurharpal Singh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, SOAS, University of London, UK