By Tapas Dey | February 16, 2018
The people of Tripura were possibly in a state of pleasant surprise as they had heard the prime minister Narendra Modi sing eulogies to the state’s last monarch Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya.
– ” The late Maharaja had done so much for the state and its people by trying to spread education , by designing the city of Agartala by contributing so much to other sectors of life and society but his name is being sought to be erased from memory ; we will not let this happen“, the prime minister had thundered in a huge rally at Sonamura on February 8. It is no wonder because the Marxists the world over believe that history began only with the publication of ‘Communist Manifesto’ in 1848 but what really was a matter of amazement was that the prime minister had done so much facts and figures researched before arriving to address a massive gathering in remote Tripura.
But the statement was correct to the letter- Modi had got his history right. Princely Tripura’s last monarch had initiated his royal domain into the modern era on the strength of his vast experience of tours in Europe and America where he had met and come in touch with so many stalwarts, Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill and Roosevelt. What is not remembered or read are also the facts that Bir Bikram had a constitution for his princely state authored by a body of scholars and tried to implement this, possibly sensing in right time which way the wind of democracy was blowing. A cruel irony of history is that he breathed his last prematurely at the relatively young age of 39 on May 17 1947, within nineteen days after issuing a royal edict declaring princely Tripura’s merger with the Indian union on April 28.
The history of Tripura post-merger on October 15, 1949 was eventful as well as crisis ridden because the last coronated prince Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya was a minor at the time of his illustrious father’s death. However, a duly constituted Regency Council headed by widowed Maharani Kanchanprabha Devi smoothly steered the state into the Indian union. But the legacy remained alive . In the year 1967 ‘Maharaja’ Kirit Biram Kishore Manikya who had already joined Congress was put up as a candidate for the Lok Sabha election against the legendary tribal leader and subsequent chief minister Dasharath Deb and defeated him decisively . This was not the end , however, as ‘Maharaja’ Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya defeated Dasharath Deb again in 1977 as Congress candidate amidst the nation-wide disaster suffered by the party that year. The last time the Maharaja had been elected to the Lok Sabha was in 1989 when despite his reluctance he had to fight on Congress ticket and won the East Tripura (ST) Lok Sabha seat.
At around the same time, Maharani Bibhu Kumari Devi, consort of Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya , had won successive elections to the state assembly in 1983 and 1988-in the second term she also became the revenue minister of the state. She had again come to the rescue of the party in 1991 by agreeing to contest the Lok Sabha polls of 1991 and by winning it. It is true that the Maharaja’s expiry in 2006 and advanced age and ailments of ‘Maharani’ Bibhu Kumari Devi have kept the royal family out of active politics but the royal scion Pradyot Bikram Kishore continues to contribute to the party at the organizational level. It is a measure of the royal family’s stature and glorious legacy that even a prime minister in the year 2018-four years before the platinum jubilee of Indian independence-has to take the name of ‘Maharaja’ Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya , a giant who straddled this state like a gentle colossus, to garner support from the indigenous communities as well as from non-tribals. Marxists suffer from a strange malady of rewriting history and distorting it but they too have lessons to learn and a lot more to unlearn from the prime minister’s references to ‘Maharaja’ Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya.
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