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How a game of chess between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur created India-Bangladesh border issue

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s historic land swap deal with Bangladesh was perhaps one of the very few instances where the current Government gave due credit to its predecessor. During the recent discussions about the constitutional amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister said, “I have said this before and I’m saying it again that this work was started by Manmohan Singh and we are only completing it.”

After hectic consultations and short lived blame game, the Government decided to include the Bangladeshi territories lying in Assam in the agreement as well. While the experts are terming this constitutional amendment as a ‘success’, majority of the common public is still clueless as to what this agreement exactly holds.

What exactly is the issue here?

Unlike most other nations, India and Bangladesh share a complex border. Fortunately, this ‘complexity’ isn’t due to any disagreement on where the actual border lies. It is the placement of these ‘well-accepted’ borders that gives birth to these complexities.

There are a number of enclaves on in the northern part of the border shared by India and Bangladesh. Enclaves are small pieces of land surrounded from all sides by a foreign country. The most famous enclave in the world is the Vatican City, which is located inside Italy’s capital, Rome. Another example is the Kingdom of Lesotho, which is located inside South Africa.

There are 106 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh. The largest among them is Dasiar Chhara which has an area of 6.65 square km. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has 92 enclaves in India, with the largest one being 25.95 square km. And that is not all! There are many counter enclaves and counter-counter enclaves as well. On the Indian side, these enclaves are located in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.

How did it all mess up?

There is no proven historical record about the exact happenings that led to this border situation. It is said that these enclaves came into being as a result of exchanges during chess matches between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur. The final shape of the enclaves was a part of a treaty between the Mughal Kingdom and the King of Cooch Behar in 1713. During partition, Cooch Behar came to India whereas Rangpur went to erstwhile East Pakistan. Due to constant trouble with Pakistan, these issues were never looked into till 1971.

The history of negotiations

The land swap deal came on the table for the first time in 1974 when Mujibur Rehman and Indira Gandhi signed an agreement to exchange the respective enclaves. Under this agreement, India provided a narrow strip of land to Bangladesh to provide access to its Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves in India. This narrow strip of land is called ‘Teen Bigha Corridor’. While Bangladesh was quick to ratify the agreement in its national parliament, India could never get it passed.

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In 2011, Manmohan Singh signed a ‘border demarcation’ and ‘enclaves exchange’ agreement with Sheikh Hasina. The UPA 2 Government tried to push forward the 1974 agreement in the Parliament and get it ratified, but it was vehemently opposed by the BJP. The move also saw sharp opposition from other parties including Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad. The BJP, in fact, in 2011, said that such exchange would be a ‘national loss’ to the country! Even this time, there were multiple hiccups in the passage of the bill, with the NDA Government keeping Assam out of the agreement till the very last moment.

What does it mean for the people living in those enclaves?

According to a joint census in July 2010, there were 37,269 Indian citizens in Indian enclaves and 14,215 Bangladeshi citizens in its enclaves in India. Residents of these enclaves live in despicable conditions. With no connection with their own Government, basic amenities such as electricity and healthcare are a distant possibility for them. They can’t cross over to their own nation since it would mean that they are entering foreign land without permissions.

The land swap agreement is expected to change the lives of over 50,000 people for the better. All those residing in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India shall be granted Indian citizenship in accordance with the section-7 of the ‘Indian Citizenship Act, 1955’. This act provides Indian citizenship to the population residing in territories incorporated in India. The same section was applied when Sikkim was incorporated into India in 1975.

With both countries promising a favourable treatment to the residents of each other’s enclaves, much migration across the border isn’t expected once the agreement is implemented on the ground. This agreement would also help in keeping a check on infiltration and illegal entry of narcotics and other banned commodities across the border. Although India would lose about 40 kilometres square land in the deal, the final resolution to the long lingering issue is worth the cost.

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  • Urvashi

    Extremely enlightening. Brilliant piece!

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List of UPA Schemes Renamed by Modi Government

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes

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India, elections, vietnam, BJP
Modi's LPG scheme reduced household air pollution: Study, VOA

A lot of BJP supporters claim that government led by Narendra Modi has launched several schemes for the development of nation in the last four years. What they failed to acknowledge that Narendra Modi has done nothing else than repackaging and renaming the previous schemes started by Congress and took their credit to his name. Shocked, aren’t you? In the last four years, Modi government has failed to develop any original ideas. So in order to appear like the government is working, they have renamed various successfully running schemes started by Congress party to fool people of the nation into believing that BJP has launched numerous schemes in the country. If you find this fact hard to believe, here is the list of s Modi government schemes that are nothing but altered name previously running schemes in the nation:

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana

Originally Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSDBA)

The (BSBDA) scheme was launched in August 2012 according to RBI which provided facility of no minimum balance required to maintain the bank account and avail all the banking services. The number of withdrawals were however limited to 4 per month. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is nothing else than a wrap up on BSDAB scheme adding Rs 1 lakh of accident insurance, overdraft facility up to Rs 5,000 and a life insurance of Rs 30,000 to previous BSDAB accounts.

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana (BBBPY)

Originally National Girl Child Day programmes

BJP
The government has initiated a lot of programmes to bring about a change in the attitude of people and stop these kinds of social evils. Wikimedia Commons

According to a report of Centre for Development and Human Rights presented in 2016, the girl child education programme listed under the BBBPY scheme is nothing but the repackaging of older Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan started by Congress.

The act of similar repackaging of scheme can be found in BBBPY’s programme to improve child sex ratio and reduce the dropout rates of school girls. These programmes were already available under Congress party’s Dhanalakshmi and Sabla schemes.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

Originally Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan

One of the major Modi government schemes, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched in September 2014 is nothing but restructured result of Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan scheme which was started by Congress in April 2012.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan was also a renamed scheme by Congress party which was originally introduced as Central Rural Sanitation Programme by Congress in 1986.

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana

Originally Indira Awaas Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana, BJP
‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana ‘ is an initiative by Government of India in which affordable housing will be provided to the urban poor.

According to a parliamentary standing committee report, it is found that the most anticipated Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna by Narendra Modi nothing by rechristened format of Indira Awaas Yojana. The funny fact about the renaming of this scheme is that several web pages of Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana still open as Indira Awaas Yojana documents.

Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana

Originally Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana

According to an information release by government on 23rd July 2015, the Rajiv Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana stated by Congress is merged under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana launched by BJP with no significant changes.

Soil Health Card scheme

Originally National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility

According to the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department, a soil health card was included in the scheme of National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility. The similar soil cards were also issued by Congress under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture.

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, BJP
The aim of this scheme is to form 10,000 clusters over the next three years and bring about five lakh acres of agricultural area under organic farming to develop agricultural activity in the country

 

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

Originally Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and other programmes

The lack of creativity and insight in Modi government schemes can be seen in its Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana which is nothing but the fusion of some existing components which are amalgamated together as a cluster based programme. This fact was reported in the Outcome Budget 2015-16 of the agriculture and cooperation department.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana

Originally Jan Aushadhi scheme

The Jan Aushadhi scheme was developed by Congress to supply unbranded medicines at reduced prices. This scheme was executed on 23 April 2008 and the first store under this scheme was established on 25 November 2008. According to an statement issued by Loksabh on 144th March 2017, the Jan Aushadhi Scheme is renamed as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana.

Make in iIndia, BJP
Make in India, a type of Swadeshi movement covering 25 sectors of the economy,

Make In India

Originally National Manufacturing Policy

The funny part about BJP copying this scheme from Congress National Manufacturing policy is that they forget the remove the information of previous policy in the new website of Make In India scheme. The broken download link redirects to the 2011 older policy document of year 2011.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Appeals MPs To Utilize Their Winter Season Well

The above comparison shows that BJP is not only trying to steal the credit of previously launched schemes by Congress party by just repackaging them as new schemes, but the BJP lacks credibility and insight required to develop new schemes necessary for the development of the nations. Some other Modi government schemes that were actually the brain child of Narendra Modi and BJP part resulted in drastic disaster in nation. GST and demonetisation are two biggest examples of such failed Modi government policies.