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Gogoi defends land-swap deal
- Most riot victims landless, says CM

New Delhi, Nov. 29: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi waded through tricky waters today in a bid to show that the state’s map may alter after ratification of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement but the state will gain land.

Assam will gain 397.5 acres of land, including a tea estate in Karimganj district, Gogoi said, while accusing the Opposition of propaganda against the agreement.

Bangladesh holds 665 acres of adversely possessed land belonging to Assam, of which the state will be returned nearly 400 acres in several patches.

“On the map, it is India’s land, but it is adverse possession and it has all along been with Bangladesh. If the agreement is ratified, the land will come into Assam’s possession. So how am I going to lose any land?” Gogoi questioned.

Bangladesh will gain 267.5 acres in the deal from what was technically Assam’s land. “But we are getting tea gardens also — along with the labourers who stay there — we have to accept them,” he added.

The issue was tricky — it is Assam’s land held by Bangladesh that will be returned in part — but Gogoi presented it with characteristic pragmatism.

In the same interaction, Gogoi addressed the issue of illegal migrants by conceding that a “substantial number” of the 4.85 lakh camp inmates in BTAD, were squatters on government land and forestland.

BJP and AGP have launched a campaign against foreigners while capitalising on the emotive issue of the notional loss of land in the land boundary agreement.

Clearance of the agreement and its 2011 protocol by the Union cabinet is expected soon as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear that the agreement has to be ratified.

The government has said the agreement has been implemented in its entirety except for demarcation of about 61km of undemarcated boundary — territories in adverse possession — and exchange of enclaves.

Gogoi said he would be glad if the agreement was ratified soon rather than later and was in favour of passing of the constitutional amendment in the winter session of Parliament.

The ministry of external affairs this week held meetings with political parties to convince them of the fruits of ratifying the agreement with Bangladesh. “We need to have better relations with Bangladesh,” Gogoi said.

On the issue of illegal migration, Gogoi lashed out at the Opposition, saying among all people injured or killed in the violence in BTAD, not a single person was found to be a foreigner.

He challenged the AGP leadership on why it had not raised questions if foreigners were included in the voter list.

Assam was one of the best performers in fencing the international border, Gogoi said, citing a 97 per cent completion rate. He said of the 224.69km border to be fenced, work on 218.17km was already done. West Bengal has fenced 1,222 km of the 1,528-km border with Bangladesh.

Talking to reporters this evening, BSF director-general U.K. Bansal said the BSF was “focusing” on preventing illegal migration in specifically 32 border outpost areas, mainly in Bengal and Assam, besides Tripura. “After the unfortunate developments in Assam, we have focused on illegal migration,” Bansal said.