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Gogoi dares Sonowal

Guwahati, June 24: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today dared Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal to prove him wrong on the issue of granting visa-free entry to Bangladesh nationals by the BJP led-NDA government.

“The proposal for visa-free entry to Bangladesh nationals under the age of 18 years and over the age of 65 years came up during an inter-ministerial meeting convened by the ministry of external affairs and chaired by the foreign secretary in New Delhi on June 11. My government had received a formal communiqué about the inter-ministerial meeting on June 13. I challenge Sonowal to prove me wrong and if he can do so, I will immediately quit my post. If Sonowal fails to do the same he should resign,” Gogoi told reporters here this morning.

Sonowal is a Union minister of state — independent charge for sports and youth affairs, skill development and entrepreneurship and president of the Assam BJP. The BJP yesterday asked the chief minister to produce the central government’s communiqué before the public.

Delhi had recently attributed the communiqué on visa-entry to a “blooper”.

“Let the BJP file an application under the Right to Information Act on the issue. The state government will produce the document,” Gogoi said. A press communiqué issued by the chief minister office stated that the ministry of external affairs, vide office memorandum no. I/ii/-103/02/2010 dated June 13, 2014, sent the Summary Record of Discussion that took place during the inter-ministerial meeting chaired by the foreign secretary, to additional chief secretary H.S. Das and other officials of the government of Assam.

Gogoi lambasted the BJP for diverting the people’s attention on the sensitive issue of visa-free entry to Bangladesh nationals of certain age groups to Assam.

“As the ministry of home affairs conveyed that this new proposal would require more time for processing, the ministry of external affairs suggested that this could be initially considered for Bangla-desh citizens of age below 10 years and over 70 years. This proposal was also strongly turned down by my government. Our stand is clearly stated in the record of discussion,” he said.

The All Assam Students’ Union today wrote to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to take up the issue of illegal infiltration.

during her official visit to the neighbouring country from tomorrow.

The AASU demanded that all Bangladeshi nationals, who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, must leave the state as per the Assam Accord.

The Telegraph had, in its Sunday edition, reported that Dispur had indeed received the minutes of the meeting held on June 13. Though foreign ministry officials had adopted “we are not aware” line on the communiqué, it was sent to Assam’s additional chief secretary H.S. Das on June 13.