New Delhi, Aug 29 (bdnews24.com)—Opposition political parties in Indian states bordering Bangladesh have opposed New Delhi’s plan to clinch an interim deal with Dhaka to share water of Teesta and resolve the issues related to land boundary between the two neighbours.
With just about a week to go before Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s much-awaited visit to Bangladesh, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and Asom Gana Parishad in the northeastern Indian state of Assam strongly opposed the “give-and-take” formula New Delhi and Dhaka apparently working on to resolve the issues related to land boundary, including the un-demarcated stretches of the border between the two countries.
The Revolutionary Socialist Party – a constituent of the opposition Left Front in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal – too expressed reservation about Delhi’s plan to strike an interim agreement with Dhaka for sharing water of river Teesta and stated that it would oppose any deal that would adversely affect people in northern region of the state.
The interim agreement for sharing of water of Teesta and the deal to resolve the issues related to border are likely to be the major highlights of Singh’s visit to Dhaka on Sept 6 and 7.
Singh is likely to be accompanied by Mamata Banerjee, Tarun Gogoi, Manik Sarkar, Mukul Sangma and Lal Thanhawla, Chief Ministers of the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram respectively. All the five Indian states share border with Bangladesh.
Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram are ruled by Indian National Congress, which also leads a coalition government at the centre in Delhi.
Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress, an ally of the Congress, last May defeated the Left Front in the state assembly polls and came to power in West Bengal — after 34 years of rule by the Left Front since 1977.
Tripura however is still ruled by Left Front, which is led by Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Gogoi recently told media-persons in Assam’s main city Guwahati that New Delhi was looking for an exchange of enclaves and adversely possessed land between India and Bangladesh to settle the issues related to border between the two countries.
The chief minister of Assam also said that India would get back more land than what Bangladesh would receive in the exchange.
This triggered protests by opposition BJP and AGP with both stating that they would oppose any move by New Delhi to concede Assam’s land to Bangladesh.
The AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary said that people of Assam would “oppose tooth and nail” any move by India’s central government in New Delhi to give away even “an inch of land” of Bangladesh, even if such an initiative was endorsed by the State Government headed by Gogoi. The AGP – a regional party – staged a protest demonstration in Guwahati on Monday, denouncing the purported move by New Delhi to strike a swap-deal with Dhaka to resolve the issues related land boundary. Patowary said that any such a move on the part of the governments in the centre and the state could lead to serious turmoil in Assam.
Even the BJP – the principal opposition party in Indian Parliament – strongly opposed New Delhi’s purported plan to strike an exchange agreement with Dhaka to settle the issues related to enclaves and adversely possessed land between Bangladesh and India. Pradyut Bora, the general secretary of the BJP’s state unit in Assam, said that the party would oppose the government’s plan both legally and politically.
With purported illegal migration from Bangladesh to India and alleged encroachment of Indian territories by people of Bangladesh along the Bangladesh-India border being a major political issue in Assam, both the AGP and BJP are likely to step up their offensives against the Congress governments in the state and centre, protesting their moves to settle the issues between New Delhi and Dhaka by a give-and-take formula.
There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 17,160 acres of land and a population of about 37000 people. India on the other hand has 51 Bangladeshi enclaves with 7110 acres of land and a population of about 14000 people.
Altogether 1880.81 acres of Indian land are in adverse possession of Bangladesh. India adversely possesses 1165.49 acres of land of Bangladesh.
During prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi in Jan 2010, Bangladesh and India agreed to comprehensively address all outstanding land boundary issues, keeping in view the spirit of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement.
The Bangladesh-India Joint Boundary Working Group has since been trying to work out a swap deal to resolve the border dispute once and for all.
Meanwhile, Revolutionary Socialist Party – one of the four leading parties of the opposition Left Front in West Bengal – already expressed concerns over the proposed interim deal that Dhaka and Delhi are planning to strike for sharing of water of Teesta during Indian prime minister’s visit to Bangladesh.
Prashanta Majumder, an RSP leader and a member of Indian parliament from Paschim Bangla, said that if India agreed to share with Bangladesh 50 percent of water of Teesta, it would result in great difficulties for about 15 million people in northern region of the state he was elected from.
Majumder recently raised the issue in Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Indian parliament, and urged Singh to safeguard the interests of the people of northern region of West Bengal while giving go-ahead for signing of the deal for sharing of water of river Teesta during his visit to Dhaka.
Teesta flows through Sikkim and northern part of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
As West Bengal is also largely dependent on Teesta for irrigation and hydropower generation, India’s central government has been factoring in the views of the state government while negotiating the interim treaty with Bangladesh for sharing of the water of the river.