NEW DELHI, June 23 � The hue and cry raised by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi over the proposal to relax visa rules for Bangladeshi nationals has snowballed into a major controversy, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) categorically denying the existence of any such proposal.
Talking to this newspaper, official spokesman of the MEA Syed Akbaruddin said that there was no such proposal and no proposal was ever made to the Government of Assam by the MEA. �I have already issued a denial,� he added.
Sources said that when the news report came in about the Chief Minister�s contention, the matter was cross-checked with Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who denied the existence of any proposal to allow visa-free travel to a certain category of Bangladeshi nationals.
Last week, the Chief Minister told newsmen that the Assam Government had rejected the MEA-sponsored proposal to allow visa-free entry of Bangladeshi nationals below 8 and above 65 years of age. He claimed that the MEA had sought the Assam Government�s opinion on the proposal.
The Chief Minister later clarified that the proposal for visa-free travel was made by the MEA at an official level meeting held in Delhi on June 11.
Playing to the local sentiments, Gogoi also said he has objected to the proposals for introducing multiple entry visas to Bangladeshi nationals. The All Assam Students� Union (AASU) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) also vehemently opposed the proposal.
The Chief Minister left enough indications to suggest that the proposal may be made during the forthcoming visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Dhaka from June 25 to 27.
Reacting to the Chief Minister�s allegation and subsequent developments, Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Sarbananda Sonowal said Gogoi was indulging in cheap politics. �A man who is fighting for survival should not indulge in such cheap acts,� he said.
The Chief Minister, who has given away Assam�s land to Bangladesh is talking about the State�s interest by making baseless statements, he said.
Gogoi, whose own survival is at stake has himself defended his action of handing over of Assam�s land to the neighbouring country, Sonowal told this newspaper over telephone from Assam.