The land deal would have benefited Assam. The BJP took the decision
with an eye to the 2016 Assembly elections, says the Chief Minister
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 30: India's land swap deal with Bangladesh will exclude Assam from its ambit. And the ruling Congress in Assam is livid at this decision by the Union cabinet, seeing behind the move a clever BJP stratagem to avoid adverse public reaction in the State going for Assembly polls next year. Now the Tarun Gogoi government is making an about-turn, claiming that the land swap deal would have benefited Assam in solving its festering border problem with Bangladesh.
“The land deal with Bangladesh was made for the greater interest of Assam. The deal was achieved through a compromise by both sides for resolution of a long pending border dispute with the neighbouring country,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters, reacting to the Union cabinet’s decision to leave out Assam from the deal as of now.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the long-pending Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, ahead of bringing the Constitution Amendment Bill associated with it in Parliament next week. However, it has de-linked Assam from the agreement for now.
The decision was taken after Exterl Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj briefed her colleagues on the “amended” agreement and told them that the changes had been conveyed to the Bangladesh government. Dhaka has agreed to these amendments, sources said, stressing that the Sheikh Hasi-led government has acquiesced to the changes, as it was constantly being accused by its political rivals in the country of being pro-India and yet not deriving any advantage from that association.
According to the deal in its origil form, Bangladesh would have got 268 acres of land and in return Assam would have gained control of 446 acres.
“Though it may appear in maps that we may lose some land, Assam would have been benefited from the deal, as the 268 acres of land which Bangladesh would get had been under (adverse) possession of Dhaka. Hurdles in the barbed wire fencing project would have been removed, had the deal been implemented,” the Chief Minister stated.
Gogoi said that Prime Minister rendra Modi had, during his Assam visit, stated that the land deal will benefit Assam in the long-term. The BJP had also supported it later, Gogoi said.
“Now, the party has made a U-Turn just because of the ensuing Assembly elections in the State. The cabinet decision will only ensure that the border dispute with Bangladesh prolongs,” the Chief Minister said.
Gogoi also doubted if a portion of the deal can be excluded piecemeal “like this”, especially when the agreement was signed by two countries and only the ratification from Parliament was left.
According to the land swap agreement in origil form, the deal would have effected mutual exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India. These included several swathes of land in Assam’s Cachar and Dhubri districts which are under adverse possession of Bangladesh. These areas in Cachar and Dhubri district have been a contentious issue between the two countries.
The land boundary agreement, the first such instance where India will give or take territories with its neighbour, seeks to formalise the status quo on the areas under adverse possession, entailing neither transfer of territory nor people residing in these enclaves.