BANGLADESH LAND SWAP GETS LOK SABHA STAMP AFTER 41 YEARS
India readied a big “thank you” note for friendly Sheikh Hasina regime when Lok Sabha on Thursday clinched the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh after a tortuous wait of 41 years. The lower House passed the constitutional amendment by a unanimous vote just like Rajya Sabha did a day ago.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally thanked Sonia Gandhi after the vote, acknowledging the cooperation extended by opposition Congress.
Though the bill received a bipartisan support, the debate saw saffron members express concern over illegal immigrants from the neighbouring country and Congress ‘thanked’ BJP for putting a full stop to its flip flop.
Congress and BJP itched to take credit for the bill after foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj conceded that she was only following what had been started by Manmohan Singh regime and that BJP had opposed the bill initially. The house toasted Swaraj for the historic agreement and she assured that it would solve many problems. The MPs obliged her with a unanimous vote as she had sought.
Only Assam-based AUDF’s Sirajuddin Ajmal sought the bill be withdrawn, calling it against the interests of state. However, the first casting registered just one negative voice, incidentally of Sushma Swaraj, which appeared to be a technical error. The PM’s vote also was not registered the first time. The voting afterwards saw all positive votes. A delayed Sonia Gandhi made it only for the final of a series of votes.
While backing the bill, BJP MPs from Assam, Rajen Gohain (Nagaon) and Ram Prasad Sarmah (Tezpur), expressed concern over the exchange of enclaves. Gohain complained that “Assam had over the years become an enclave of Bangladesh” with rampant illegal immigration, holding Congress responsible for it.
With BJP MPs’s tone diverging from their support for the bill, MP Gaurav Gogoi jibed, “Suit-boot ki sarkar has used soojh-boojh (wisdom). Your PM is supporting the bill, there must be some reason.”
Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut and BJD’s Rabindra Jena too demanded that after the settlement of borders, India should start the process of repatriating illegal residents to Bangladesh.
However, the day belonged to two speeches – Sugata Bose (Trinamool Congress) and SS Ahluwalia (BJP). A historian and grand-nephew of Subhash Chandra Bose, Bose spoke from knowledge and legacy, his narrative historical and moving in parts, suffused with music and poetry of the region. Tracing the shaping of Bangladesh from British times to the liberation, he said the settling of borders would save national interest, state interest and human interest alike.
A burly Sikh, Ahluwalia surprised many with his chaste Bangla though he revealed that Bengal was his home after he moved from Sialkot during partition. He too took the house through the history of the neighbouring country and the relations between the Bengals on either side of the border. In the end, he perceptively sought a co-ordination between the security forces of the two countries to ensure there were no riots or loot during the exchange of population.
No wonder, both the oratories met with loud applause of appreciation.
Interestingly, a large section of the House led by AIADMK drew attention to the disputes with Sri Lanka and the issue of Katchatheevu island.
Swaraj said the handing over of the island was not accompanied by a constitutional amendment. She said she could not speak on the issue because it was sub-judice with AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa having filed a case in supreme court. However, AIADMK insisted she make clear the stand of the Central government as the latter’s affidavit in the apex court was against India’s claim on the island.
The foreign minister said India would be a caring “elder brother” to the neighbours and not the bossy “big brother”.
MAY 08, 2015