A palace conspiracy almost saw Tripura joining Pakistan

Jayanta Bhattacharya

The princely state of Tripura, which celebrated its 50th statehood day earlier this month, almost joined Pakistan some 75 years ago.

A palace coup supported by the Muslim league was almost on the verge of overturning the last Tripura Maharaja’s decision to join the Indian Union, but for the timely action of a few loyal ministers and warnings by politicians of that period.
Panna Lal Roy, a historian and author of a book on the merger of princely Tripura with Indian Union said, “Maharaja Bir Bikram announced on April 28, 1947 that Tripura would be a part of Indian union and on the same day sent a telegram to the secretary of the Constituent Assembly about his decision.”

 “Unfortunately, the prince died on May 17, 1947. After his death, a group of highly placed employees in cahoots with the Muslim League had hatched a conspiracy for inclusion of the state with Pakistan,” he said.
Roy, who authored a book, ‘Prasad Sarajantra’ (Palace Conspiracy), said after the death of Bir Bikram Kishore, “a well-orchestrated” conspiracy was hatched by certain ministers and a step-brother of the late king with the Anjuman Islamia, a pro-Muslim League organisation in Tripura, to place a member of the royal family on the throne and sign a fresh agreement transferring the state to Pakistan.
    He said the Muslim League leaders had organised many meetings in Comilla and Noakhali districts for inclusion of Tripura with East Pakistan, and the communal riots sparked off in those areas resulted in large numbers of people fleeing to Tripura as refugees.
    The Maharajas of the tribal state not only ruled over the present-day Tripura but also by virtue of having zamindari estates (in British Indian dominion), ruled over large chunks of neighbouring districts of Comilla, Noakhali and Sylhet.
    The Manikya rulers collected revenue from the subjects of those districts as zamindars but not as rulers.     They also spent on public education and healthcare in these areas, and even built clubs like the elite Comilla Club.
    These areas were awarded by the Radcliffe Commission to Pakistan.
    Roy said the Muslim League leaders were encouraged by this as well as another decision of the Radcliffe Commission, which gave away the Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT), which had 97 per cent Buddhist tribal population, to Pakistan on the plea that otherwise it would not be able to exist economically, given its land-locked situation.
    The problem for them was that a notification was published 25 days after the death of the last ruler on June 11, 1947, which said, “It is hereby notified that the late colonel, His Highness Maharaja Manikya Sir Bir Bikram Kishore Deb Barman Bahadur… Ruler of Tripura state, having decided to join the existing constituent Assembly, nominated on the 28th April, 1947, G S Guha Minister, Government of Tripura, as the representative of the Tripura state to the said constituent Assembly…”
    The then President of Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee, Surendra Mohan Ghosh wrote a letter to Home Minister Sardar Patel on October 29 tipping him of the conspiracy. This was followed by a letter from Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mukherji on the Tripura situation to Patel.
    All these warnings led to Patel writing to the Governor of Assam on December 31, 1947 and subsequently the federal government rushing Air Force personnel to Tripura as a contingent measure.
    The Advisor of the then Assam Governor, Nari Rustam ji, also wrote in his book, ‘Enchanted Frontier’, “There is evidence of Pro-Pakistani elements at work in Tripura… but we are fully alert and quickly pounced on potential trouble makers.”
    Roy said several ministers were subsequently asked to resign, and one of them was asked by the Maharani to desist from entering the state. The Maharani was ably assisted by a new Dewan, A B Chatterjee, through these turbulent times.
    Finally, after one more year, the ‘Instrument of Merger’ for making Tripura a part of the Indian union was signed by Maharani Kanchanprava Devi and the advisor of the Ministry of States, V P Menon, on October 15, 1949.