People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

June 27, 2010


Comrade Bidya Debbarma



BORN in a peasant family on  April 11, 1916 at Behalabari, a remote tribal village of the then princely state, (now Khowai sub-division under West Tripura  district) Comrade Bidya Debbarma could not make much headway in his academic life. He had to end his formal education just after passing class VII.


A school-leaving boy Bidya Debbarma, during his stay at Agartala, joined the Royal Army of Tripura during the regime of Maharaja Bir Bikram Manikya Bahadur. While imparting training in the Army, one day Maharaja himself called the new recruit trainees to his palace and ordered them to prepare for rushing to the war front. Bidya Debbarma could guess that they were being sent to help the British. The inherent hatred against the colonial British led Comrade Bidya Debbarma to make an instant protest against helping British in war front and had the courage to defy the order of the king. The king was not at all prepared for such straight defiance from a trainee Army cadet. Rightly sensing that such defiance was an indication of revolt among the Army, he, however, did not take any stern disciplinary action against the defiant. He just transferred him to the administrative wing as a clerk.         


In 1945, at the behest of some dynamic educated tribal youth led by Dasaratha Deb, Hemanta Debbarma, Sudhanwa Debbarma and others, Janashiksha Samity was formed with a mission to introduce universal education among village people, both tribals and nontribals and remove the curse of illiteracy from the kingdom. Maharaja did not take this organisation so plainly. He had genuinely anticipated this organisation to be the last nail in the coffin of the monarchy. He had a drive to nip this popular movement in the bud and sent his army to hound out Janashiksha Samity leaders. The royal Army started unbridled depredation in large areas on the innocent people in village after village. But that could not hamper the movement nor could they book any of the Janashiksha Samity leaders. On the other hand, the movement was spreading like wildfire, challenging the king’s rule.   At that time, Comrade Bidya Debbarma played an important role as a ‘secret linkman’ between the royal administration and the Janashiksha Samity leaders. But at last he got exposed. Instantly Comrade Bidya Debbarma was arrested for the first time in 1945 and was sent to Khowai jail. He was mercilessly tortured by the royal Army in the custody for divulging the whereabouts of Dasaratha Deb, the wanted Janashiksha Samity leader. All types of torture upon Comrade Bidya Debbarma  were of no use to get any clue about the Samity leaders. At one point of time, the king’s autocratic rulers decided to hang him. But apprehending still bigger popular upsurge, he was not executed.


Comrade Bidya Debbarma was entrusted with organising Janashikaha Samity in various sub-divisions. He organised even mass deputations to the concerned sub-divisional officers demanding set-up of educational institutions. Once, at Santirbazar, one police officer came to arrest him but Comrade Bidya Debbarma was so popular among the masses that the police officer had to beg pardon to free himself from the furious people gathered to protect Comrade Bidya Debbarma.  He made a big contribution in organising movement for abolishing Titun (A feudal system of bonded labour). Three tribal women namely, Kumari, Madhuti and Rupshree were killed in police firing in the movement against Titun.  By this time Ganamukti Parishad was formed to lead a resistance movement to the king’s tyranny. Comrade Bidya Debbarma as general of the guerilla fighters, led the armed resistance. That armed confrontation continued for ten days in Khowai and adjoining areas killing two royal army personnel. Only after that, Maharaja’s education minister, Brown was compelled to open nearly three hundred schools as per the list supplied by the Janashiksha Samity leaders. Afterwards, following the accession of Tripura with the Indian Union, the Congress rulers deputed Nanjappa from Andhra Pradesh to crush the Mukti Parishad resistance in 1948.


He joined the undivided CPI in 1950. After the split in the party in 1964, he sided with the CPI(M) and was elected the state committee member of the Party. He continued to be so till his death. He was the vice president of Tripura  Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad.


He was arrested several times and was put behind the bars for several years. During Indo-China border conflicts in 1962 and Indo-Pak war in 1965, he along with other communist leaders was arrested. He was arrested again in 1968 and also during the food movement in the state in 1973. During the food movement, he was severely tortured by the police. When internal emergency was promulgated in 1975, he was in captivity for 21 months. In all, he spent nine years in jail and another 13 years underground. 


He was first elected as an MLA in 1967. From then on, till 1993, he served as an MLA for six terms. In 1977, he became a minister in charge of tribal welfare department in the coalition ministry of CPI(M)-CFD.


In course of the movement for transformation from monarchy to democracy, Comrade Bidya Debbarma played a vital role along with the Communist Party in the state. In spite of the backwardness of the tribal people, he has been continuously fighting against the wrong path of extremism and separatism.