Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hasina’s unfulfilled dream

In her oft repeated claim Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina takes the pride of resolving the water and border problems with India. She had cheered the nation by announcing impending accord on 50-50 share of Teesta waters during Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September last. Probably Dr Singh had agreed on equal share of the Teesta waters with the hope of achieving his greater objective – India’s much needed corridor over Bangladesh for transportation of goods from the west to troubled-torn east. 
Questions were asked if the cargoes in covered vans or in containers would contain arms and soldiers in guise of civilians would be ferried from the west to suppress the secessionist movement now raging in the eastern states known as Seven Sisters. Allowing easy passage to arms supply and ferrying army personnel over the Bangladesh territory would, no doubt, cause ire of the secessionist groups of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Tripura who may turn their guns across the border as well.
But Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal through which the Teesta, originating from a glacier in northern Sikkim, flows down to Bangladesh, has unwittingly torpedoed the proposed deal. In fact, West Bengal had already planned fuller use of Teesta waters during the winter for irrigation to 9.22 lakh hectares of land and storage of four dams raised for operating small hydro-electric projects to generate electricity. It is not amusing that Mamata has later offered as much Teesta waters as Bangladesh needs during the monsoon when the country is already deluged.

As for swapping of enclaves and resolving the age old un-demarcated border disputes, finally the accord seems unlikely. It is said swapping the enclaves would gain Bangladesh some 600 acres of land now in Indian possession. But Indian opposition party BJP is poised to foil the proposed accord. In parliament last week BJP has asked the government to bring amendment to the constitution. Without amendment, no land can be ceded to another country. 
It is worth recalling that the Noon-Nehru agreement of 1958 had provided for the exchange of Berubari union with Tin Bigha corridor. Soon, Berubari was handed over to India but India never gave us the Tin Bigha corridor. The then Indian President Rajendra Prashad had disagreed and referred the matter to the Supreme Court. A constitution bench comprising eight judges had given the verdict against handing over Tin Bigha corridor to Pakistan, saying no territory of India could be ceded to any country.
So, the move for swapping of enclaves will meet the same fate. Falling prey to the Indian design, Sheikh Hasina may give the transit corridor and hand over the Indian enclaves, but she will never get anything in exchange. The political leaders should be bold and honest in telling the truth so that the people do not suffer from illusion.
BSF killing
Killing by BSF along the border has not stopped despite repeated assurances by the Indian leaders. After meeting with her Indian counterpart, Sheikh Hasina had assured the nation that India agreed not to fire across the border killing innocent people. At other high level meetings, including that of BGB and BSF chiefs, India had repeatedly held out categorical assurance of no more killing by BSF. But they made promises only to break them. According to Adhikar, at least 20 Bangladesh nationals were killed and 58 wounded in BSF gunfire while 26 people were kidnapped during the eleven months to November this year. There were also unreported killings.
And smuggling of drug from across the border continued unabated. Old proverb goes that if you want to destroy a nation, push drug into that country. That will spoil the youths. Ironically, our friendly neighbour has been quietly promoting smuggling drugs into Bangladesh, which are not produced in this country. Phensidyl, for example, bottled in hundreds of small factories along the border and pushed through the border in large quantity. Phensidyl, intoxicated syrup not marketed in India, are produced targeting the youths of Bangladesh where alcohol is banned. The issue was repeatedly raised in high level meetings identifying location of phenlsidyl factories operating in along Indo-Bangladesh border, which are promoted by the administration. Indian side at high level meetings promised to close those factories, but it was never done. Reports from border districts pouring in to newspaper offices every day suggest that smuggling of phensidyl, hemp, heroin and alcohol from across the border continued unabated.
India is implementing the Tipaimukh Dam on Barak river across Sylhet ignoring the expert views and protest across Bangladesh. The construction of dam at the upstream is not only opposed by Bangladesh. Assam itself is raging with violent protests against the project. Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an organisation spearheading protests against a proposed dam in eastern Assam, has called for an indefinite strike in parts of the state from Tuesday (December 27).  The strike has been called also to protest police-army atrocities on demonstrators (Army remained deployed in Assam to suppress secessionist movement by ULFA). Security forces claimed KMSS is linked with ULFA and Maoists, acting as their covert unit. After beating the demonstrators 400 of them were arrested early hours on Tuesday. KMSS, Takam Mising Porin Kebang and Jatiyatabadi Yuva-Chatra Parishad have been leading a mass protest against the proposed 2000 MW Lower Subansiri mega hydro-electric project being constructed at Gerukamukh in Dhemaji district along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Road blockade and anti-dam movement has received support from a number of groups, communities and political leaders of Arunachal Pradesh.
BY : Shamsuddin Ahmed.