The writing on the wall has come to pass and Assam filly figures in the Indo-Bangla land swap deal. But the political hide-and-seek Congress and BJP are playing over the issue has muddied the waters beyond belief. It has made the BJP flip-flop four times in the last two years, while the Congress has spoken with a forked tongue and tied itself up into knots. What comes through clearly is a disgraceful blame game between parties to derive political mileage, while the public remains in the dark. After the rendra Modi government decided to re-include Assam on Tuesday, top BJP leaders hastened to explain there was no other option as the Congress and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi were hell-bent in keeping Assam within the deal. Immediately Dispur trotted out figures, claiming that of the total 982 acres of disputed land along the border, Assam stands to formally gain 714 acres on the Lathitilla-Dumabari sector in Karimganj district. But the remaining 268 acres in Boroibari in Dhubri district and Pallathal in Karimganj district, ‘already in adverse possession of Bangladesh’, will formally go to the neighbouring country. This will supposedly pave the way to seal the border, as boundary fencing can at last be erected on a three km stretch at Lathitilla-Dumabari which had hitherto not been demarcated. All this sounds fine now, but then why did Tarun Gogoi lambast Prime Minister rendra Modi’s announcement in Guwahati last year to operatiolise the land deal including Assam? Was it not the previous Congress government at the Centre that had signed the deal with Dhaka? Had Tarun Gogoi been statesmanlike and congratulated Modi for seeking to continue what his predecessor Manmohan Singh had started in 2011, he would have held on to the political high ground.
But Gogoi chose to exact revenge for the BJP blocking passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha in 2013 to ratify the deal. Sarbanda Sonowal hoisting the tricolour at Dumabari-Lathitilla opposing transfer of Assam land to Bangladesh must have rankled too, particularly after the BJP wrested seven Lok Sabha seats from the State. So Gogoi denounced Modi’s BJP as a double-crosser for opposing the bill while in Opposition and supporting it after coming to power. Thus it was that the Assam Chief Minister seemed to add his voice to the chorus against the UPA initiated deal, confusing people no end. It was only when the BJP played another political gambit by trying to exclude Assam from the deal that Tarun Gogoi went on the offensive about how the deal will benefit the State. This is the kind of drama the two major political parties are playing to mislead people in the State, because they see the Assembly elections looming next year. A clever play of words is being employed to play with the emotions of the people. Will 714 acres remain with Assam and around 268 acres be transferred to Bangladesh, or will Assam ‘gain’ 714 acres out of a total of 982 acres in adverse possession? Meanwhile other parties and organisations in the State like the AGP and AJYCP continue to denounce the deal because Assam will have to part with land. Well, there are three hard realities people of Assam need to appreciate. First, India and Bangladesh wish to straighten and ratiolise their boundary, and must therefore engage in uvoidable mutual give-and-take. Second, there may be heartburn over some Assam land going to Bangladesh, but a settled boundary is also one that may be secured and guarded. Third, as we waste emotiol energy on ‘gaining’ or ‘losing’ land along the Bangladesh border, illegal Bangladeshi migrants have already swamped bordering districts of Assam to domite at least 12 districts presently. With decisive numbers in around 40 percent of the State’s constituencies, Bangladeshi voters are on course to completely dictate the political future of Assam within a few years.