GUWAHATI, May 14 � The North-East India Political Science Association (NEIPSA) � a conglomerate of social scientists of the Northeast region � conducted a discussion on the India-Bangladesh Land Agreement at the Vivekananda Kendra here yesterday. The meeting was chaired by journalist Prasanta Rajguru and attended by intellectuals, professors and research scholars of the Gauhati University.
In his inaugural remark, Rajguru said that most of the political problems of India have their origin in Partition. The land agreement could provide a golden opportunity for improving ties between the two countries.
Delivering the keynote address, Prof (Dr) Nani Gopal Mahanta of the Gauhati University said that most of the structural problems in South Asia are actually legacies of colonialism. The border problem between Bangladesh and India is not an exception to that. The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), 2011, which was recently ratified by the Parliament, is a historic effort in negating the ill-effects of colonialism and the agreement is one of the best examples of amicable resolution of border conflicts in the developing countries.
Prof Mahanta said the LBA 2011 tried to address three areas which could not be resolved by the LBA of 1974, which is also known as the Indira-Mujib pact. These three areas are: (1) fixation of un-demarcated land boundary of approx 6.1 km in three sectors � (a) Daikhata (West Bengal), (b) Muhuri River Belonia (Tripura) and (c) Lathitila-Dumabari (Assam); (2) Exchange of enclaves; and (3) Resolving the issues of adverse possession.
Prof Mahanta said these areas have been the bone of contention between the countries since 1947. In Dumabari area of Assam, firing took place between the two security forces in 1962 and again in 1965. In Boroibari, Assam, 16 BSF personnel were killed in 2001. In addition, these areas acted as the transit point for the insurgent groups and became the hub of all illegal and anti-social activities. All these necessitated an early settlement of this vexed issue.
He argued that the legitimization of 193 acres in Boroibari or 75.55 acres in Pallathal area cannot be dubbed as surrender, because they were never under the possession of India. Besides, the people living in these areas are Bangladeshi citizens and they resisted any exchange of territory between the two countries. Prof Mahanta said that now it remains to be seen how India can access the transit facilities from Bangladesh, as these facilities would substantially reduce transportation cost from the Northeast. He said that this land agreement is the best example of showing how a boundary can be transformed from a border of constraint to one of opportunities.
Participating in the discussion, journalist Wasbir Hussain said that this agreement reflects the decisive foreign policy orientation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said Modi wants to project himself as the strong leader not only for India but also for the entire South Asia. Therefore, it is essential for him to develop friendly relations with the neighbouring countries. He said that with the issue of land agreement, politics and emotion play a very important role. Journalist Adip Phukon, on the other hand, argued that Assam has lost its territory to Bangladesh and it is a serious emotional issue of contention. �Besides, we could not use it as the bargaining point to achieve something for Assam like making Bangladesh accept the foreign nationals or the signing of the repatriation agreement.
Broadly providing qualified support to the pact, public activist Prof Deven Dutta said if it could help in erecting fencing or preventing other nagging problems, the agreement is welcome. He, however, criticised the BJP for its vacillating role in supporting the agreement. Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta, journalist Sushanta Talukdar, Pabindra Deka of AGP also took part in the discussion. Nava Jyoti Bora, general secretary of NEIPSA offered the vote of thanks.