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Nine regional parties team up against deal
- Gogoi pins hope on Bangla land-swap pact

Kohima/Guwahati, Dec. 20: Nine regional parties from six northeastern states today resolved to oppose the Centre’s land-swap deal with Bangladesh tooth and nail and chalk out strategies for the 2014 Lok Sabha election in a meeting in Nagaland.

In Guwahati, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the Opposition parties were out to “politicise the issue”. He said in the event of the deal being struck, Assam would stand to gain 397.5 acres of land.

The nine parties that met at Niathu resort in Chumukedima near Dimapur under the banner of Northeast Regional Parties Front (NERPF) are the Naga People’s Front (NPF), the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Hill State Democratic Party (HSDP) from Assam, the United Democratic Party (UDP) from Meghalaya, the Manipur People’s Party (MPP), the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP), the Manipur Democratic People’s Front (MDPF), the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT).

AGP president and former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told reporters after the meeting this evening that the regional parties had agreed to oppose the land-swap deal and work together to develop the region. He said the coming together of like-minded regional parties was a “historic event”.

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio said the regional parties had come together to “protect the identity and aspirations” of the people of the Northeast who, he alleged, had been neglected by the Centre for decades. He asserted that only the regional parties could do so. The North Eastern Council and DoNER, formed for the purpose, had failed to live up to the expectations and the region had remained backward, he alleged.

Rio said delegates of the front would soon leave for New Delhi to apprise the central leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of the need to evolve a consensus on developing the Northeast.

Rio said Assam was the “mother of all states in the region” and underscored the need for it to develop at a faster pace so that other states could benefit from it. He said if Assam remained backward, other states could not move ahead.

The front also resolved to constitute a committee to formulate policies and strategies for the Lok Sabha election and work out sharing of seats for its constituent members.

The NPF has, however, already announced that it would field candidates in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh apart from the lone seat in Nagaland.

Rio, the convener of the new front, had met the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi recently.

The front’s co-convener is Atul Bora, the working president of the AGP.

In Guwahati, Gogoi said the BJP and AGP’s contrary stand against the land boundary agreement, arguing that the state would have to give away land to Bangladesh, was an effort to mislead the public for political gain.

“Altogether 665 acres of land was under adverse possession of both the countries and following the land transfer agreement, Assam will regain 397.5 acres of land while Bangladesh will get 267.5 acres,” he told reporters here. “Where does the question of the state giving away land arise? Actually, both the BJP and the AGP are out to politicise the issue and their protests only prove that they do not want the land to be included within the state.”

He also alleged that both the BJP and the AGP did nothing to ensure that the land under adverse possession was returned to the state when they were in power both at the Centre and in the state.

The land in adverse possession is on the maps of each country but actually not in control of either of the two countries and the land transfer will ensure “land in adverse possession is exchanged and we regain what is rightfully ours,” Gogoi said.

The land agreement will also ensure demarcation and erection of fences on the unfenced 2.86km stretch in the Lathitilla-Dumabari sector in Karimganj district along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Gogoi said, “The deal benefits us. We will not only get land, but the fencing can be completed as well and we will be able to improve relation with the neighbouring country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had consulted us on the issue and we agreed as we stand to gain from it.”

He pointed out that the land deal would improve trade relations with Bangladesh and “we want friendly ties with all our neighbouring countries.”

Assam has a 269km border with Bangladesh, of which 40km is riverine and fencing has been completed on 222.67km of the border. “Assam has completed fencing of more than 97 per cent, which is the highest among all the other states, like Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura, that share a border with Bangladesh,” Gogoi added.