Activists took to the streets across Assam and burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday after the union cabinet included the state and three others in a bill cleared by it to initiate a historic land swap deal with Bangladesh.
The NDA government doubled back on a previous decision to keep Assam out of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) after facing stiff resistance from the Congress-led Opposition that wanted territories from the state to be part of the pact.
Analysts said the BJP-led Centre was keen to exclude Assam from the agreement with an eye on next year’s assembly polls as several political and civil society groups were resisting its inclusion.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) that started the anti-foreigners’ movement in the state staged a protest against what it called chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s “anti-Assam” stand after he supported the land swap.
The group also burnt copies of the official letter sent by the state to the central government on the issue.
The LBA was signed in 1974 but not ratified by Parliament. Gogoi accompanied then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka in 2011 where a protocol for the transfer of territories was signed and a constitution amendment bill was introduced in December 2013 in the Rajya Sabha by the UPA government.
That bill was referred to a parliamentary standing committee that submitted its report in December 2014.
The legislation that is likely to come up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday includes enclaves to be transferred to Bangladesh in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya and those that are to be acquired from the neighbouring country.
“The BJP is now saying that the LBA protocol with Bangladesh was signed by the UPA government and it can’t change the format. If that is the truth then why did the BJP earlier decide to delink Assam from the agreement?” asked state Congress president Anjan Dutta.
Opposition Asom Gana Parisda (AGP) chief Atul Bora panned the Modi government, terming the move to include Assam in the pact as “compromising on territorial integrity”.
“We doubted the BJP’s intentions from the very beginning. The Congress and BJP are two sides of the same coin,” he said.