Friday, June 24, 2011

People resist land handover to India in Tamabil

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has strongly asserted last week that there can not be anybody in the country who is a better patriot than herself. She made the comment at a function in the city while commenting on the hartal called by the committee on protection of oil, gas, power, minerals and ports which is not only opposed to the gas exploration deal with the US multinational ConnocoPhilips but has also charged the Prime Minister for working against national interest.
   But people really remained confused as the volleys of accusations and claims flying high in the air. Political observers here say confusion is only on the rise over the way the government is handling sensitive national issues which not only include the gas blocks deal in the off-shore but also on attempt to hand over disputed land in the border with India.
   Throughout last week, local people at Tamabil at Sylhet-Meghalaya border resisted a joint Bangladesh-India survey team which went on the spot to demarcate a chunk of three acres of land from inside Bangladesh to hand it over to the Indians.
   People not only resisted the move backed by the Indian border security forces BSF but also forced it to leave the spot on several occasions throughout the week on their own without any back up support from Bangladesh border guards.
   Local residents remained in total confusion why the BGB forces were absent leaving them to the firing line of the BSF. But they were resolved to protect the land from being hand over to Indian control.
   “This land is ours from the days of our forefathers. It is recorded in our names in last land survey in 2002 and previously. We are using the land, growing crops and why the Sheikh Hasina government is now working to hand over it to India is a big question,” a local in telephone call where this scribe is at present working said.
   Newspaper reports last week (on June 19) said officials of Meghalaya and Bangladesh suspended the joint survey of Tamabil border in face of protests by local residents
   Assistant director of survey Md Dabir Uddin said, “We were preparing to survey about three acres of land close to Tamabil customs station. The Indians were claiming the land for long”.
   “A few hundred locals protested the survey after hearing that the land attached to Tamabil land customs station will be handed over to the Indians on the same day”, he said.
   UNO of Gowainghat upazila Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said the matter was brought to the notice of higher authorities. Joint survey will resume in 2-3 days after clearance from the higher authorities, he added.
   A stalemate had been prevailing for months as Bangladesh officials could not agree with the Indians over several points on the adversely possessed lands (APL) at different borders of Sylhet-Meghalaya region. Sources said that Indians were pressing to start the survey at other points inside Bangladesh border as well ignoring the existing border pillars, set in 1947 during the partition of India with Pakistan. The survey on the said borders had to be suspended time and again in the face of protests by either Indians or by Bangladesh nationals in the border areas in recent past.
   It could not be resumed even months after the schedule, set by the officials of both sides which BGB director general last week said was agreed at a meeting in Delhi in November last year. The officials however had to suspend the job in December last year following troubles created by the Indian khasia tribesmen and others on the much talked Padua-Protappur borders. Again it stumbled in April as the Indians failed to bring any document to support their claims over the lands in question inside the Bangladesh territory.
   A similar situation arose two weeks ago on the much talked Padua-Protappur borders. In the wake of repeated incidents of intrusion centring harvesting of crops in the field and fishing which resulted in the killing of several Bangladesh nationals by the BSF and by Khasia tribesmen, the authorities decided instead to put the joint survey on the Jaintapur, Gowainghat and Kanaighat borders.
   Accordingly, it began on December 7 last year. But since then the survey faced serious opposition at several times mainly due to difference of opinions between the officials of both the sides.
   Analysts say why the government of Sheikh Hasina is not taking the nation into confidence on the issue before putting the survey team on the disputed border land and preparing the hand over of the land. Why the government is not taking it to Parliament. Despite a resolution of Indian Parliament on Barubari handover to Bangladesh, Delhi has so far failed to fulfil it, an Indian court order has kept the entire handing over matter hanging.
   Why the Bangladesh Prime Minister is not bothered to consult the Parliament or the court. No one knows about the government stand except a handful of government officials at the ministry of foreign affairs and land survey. The question is why there is no transparency and a hide and seek is overshadowing the entire process.
   BGB director general said both sides have claims over small pockets of land at different border points, not only at Sylhet but also at Kustia and Rajshahi. But a question why the Indian demand is being only unilaterally entertained without similar move to bring back Bangladesh land, remained unanswered. He said he was not aware of the entire process. India is also not allowing farmers at Amorshid border to go to their family land and cultivate it over the past few years since this government came to power, local residents said wondering why there is a change of wind passing out now.
   Sheikh Hasina is also handing over the transit corridor to India even without a bare minimum of transit fees for use of Bangladesh land in long transportation way for goods and passengers. She is a big ally of India and also a good patriot, there is no doubt, analysts say but how she is balancing the both is a big question.