|Mamata Banerjee at the rally on the Mathabhanga College grounds in Cooch Behar on Monday. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti|
Mathabhanga, July 22: Mamata Banerjee today picked on Teesta water-sharing and border enclaves during her panchayat election campaign in Cooch Behar, which shares a border with Bangladesh.
At a rally in the Mathabhanga College grounds, the chief minister reiterated her firm “no” on both the issues the Congress-led UPA-II government wants settled, unless she gets the nod of the people of North Bengal.
“Teesta’r jol tokhoni debo jokhon Uttar Banger manush chaiben… Chhit mahal tokhoni hobe jodi Cooch Behar er manush chaye (I will give the Teesta waters when the people of North Bengal say so. Exchange of enclaves will take place only if the people of Cooch Behar so desire),” Mamata said today.
Mamata had opposed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inking the Teesta water treaty allowing larger share of the river’s water to Bangladesh during his trip to Dhaka in September 2011.
Mamata had refused to accompany Singh to Bangladesh as a protest against the treaty.
Delhi’s repeated attempts to win over Mamata have failed.
Mamata’s stand gives a seal of approval to Trinamul’s campaign in the districts of Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar.
The Teesta flows through these two districts after coming down the hills. Cooch Behar is the only district in Bengal that has enclaves.
India has 102 enclaves inside Bangladesh and Bangladesh 71 inside India. Under the Land Border Agreement signed by the two sides in 2011, residents of the enclaves — tiny islands surrounded by a foreign country — would have a choice between staying where they are and moving to their country. But the Centre needs Parliament to ratify a constitutional amendment to enforce the pact.
“Mamatadi will never agree to any decision which could affect people’s interests. In Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar, people are touchy about the Teesta. So she raised this point to assure them (the people) of her support,” said a Trinamul leader accompanying Mamata.
“The chief minister is against the decision, since the people living in the enclaves in Bangladesh are Indians. Why should they be deprived of an Indian citizenship?” asked an aide of the chief minister.
Trinamul sources said the party’s MLAs have been talking about Mamata’s refusal to allow the Centre sign the treaty with Bangladesh for releasing additional Teesta water and efforts to make the Teesta Barrage Project viable.
“The CPM used to refer to the Teesta Barrage project and ask for votes. In reality, they did nothing. Our government has tried to bring more arable land under the project. Flood protection measures have been taken,” said Trinamul’s Natabari MLA Rabindranath Ghosh.
At the public meeting today, Mamata also spoke about the deplorable condition of the NH31D. The chief minister took a detour from Bagdogra airport through Malbazar to avoid the potholed NH31D.
“The national highway is in such a bad shape. Cooch Behar shares the border with Bangladesh. I don’t know why the Centre is not taking care of the national highway. Ask the leaders of the Congress and its ally CPM why they have done nothing,” Mamata said today.
“The Congress is trying to get armed trouble-makers sneak into Bengal through the Assam border. I am warning you. I have a request for the Assam government, please don’t try to send armed goondas or police. Remember this is our state. Don’t play a political game.”
Sources said the chief minister was possibly hinting at the arrest of Kanishka Roy, a KLO activist from Assam’s Kokrajhar district who was arrested from Cooch Behar on July 18.