Tripura's architect 'Maharaja Bir Bikram', an enlightening book by chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb

Sekhar Datta

There is an old adage : 'those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat mistakes of the past and build a future'. This ageold maxim holds good most appropriately in Tripura where study of history is always clouded by present-day political expediencies. This is the reason why Tripura is the only constituent state of the Indian union where local history-benevolent rule of the Manikya dynasty over close to 550 years is never taught as part of the academic syllabus. While the Congress governments in succession had neglected the matter initially , the long Marxist rule had resulted in a conscious and deliberate attempt to put the princely history of Tripura on the back-burner.
Nevertheless, many books on princely Tripura's history have been authored and reads and to this genre chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb's book 'Adhunik Tripurar Shilpakar , Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya' is a new contribution. Deb has carefully chosen his subject as king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya (1923-1927) was Tripura's reformist and great-hearted king who had modernized Tripura. Born in 1908 Bir Bikram had a short span of life as he breathed his last on May 17 1947 , three months ahead of India's independence . However , nineteen days before his death Bir Bikram had signed the royal edict on April 28 1947 declaring his resolve that Tripura would join the Indian union and barrister G.S.Guha would be state's representative in the constituent assembly. This single step defeated a conspiracy to have Tripura merge with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Bir Bikram had toured Europe and America twice-the second time with his family- and took a series of welfare measures for education and health care of his subject cutting across all affiliations. The MBB college of Agartala, Maharajganj Bazar, the centre of the town at Kaman Chaumuhuni with roads having boulevards as business centre, old secretariat building and many landmarks across the state. Besides, Bir Bikram had taken great initiatives to enrich the state's culture by liberal patronage and extended massive assistance to Rabindra Nath Tagore's 'Viswa Bharati'. Apart from this, he had stimulated trade and commerce in Tripura.

But the enlightened king's greatest humanitarian contribution was his decision to provide shelter to the terror-stricken Hindu refugees of erstwhile East Pakistan. He had opened reception committees for the refugees and allowed them to settle in Tripura. But the near universal aversion to history in Tripura has stood in the way of king Bir Bikram being extended his due place and recognition . It is to chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb's credit that he has brought the magnanimity and far-sightedness personified by king Bir Bikram and various aspects of his life. The naming of Agartala airport as 'Bir Bikram International Airport' after the great ruler's name was owed to the magnanimous monarch by the state's people. The chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb can legitimately claim credit for this . 

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