India-Bangladesh meeting over disputed enclave in Tripura inconclusive

Agartala, Nov 20 (IANS) A meeting between Indian and Bangladeshi officials in Dhaka to resolve the dispute over southern Tripura’s Muhurichar — the lone enclave whose fate is yet unresolved between the two neighbours — ended inconclusively, officials said here on Sunday.

“The meeting in Dhaka to resolve the dispute over Muhurichar enclave remained inconclusive. The officials of the two countries would submit reports to their respective governments to decide the further course of action,” a top official of Tripura’s Revenue Department told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

“Indian officials told their Bangladeshi counterparts that according to the Indira-Mujib accord, the boundary should be the mid-course of the Muhuri river. The Bangladesh officials objected to this logic, saying the course of the river has changed many times during the past 44 years,” said the official.

The Indira-Mujib agreement was signed on March 19, 1972 between the then Indian and Bangladeshi Prime Ministers, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to determine various issues of the two countries, including 1971 as the cut-off year to identify the Bangladeshi infiltrators and refugees to India.

The official said the seven-member Indian delegation was led by External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Border Management, Sripriya Ranganathan, while the 12-member Bangladesh side was headed by its Home Ministry’s Additional Secretary (Political) Abu Hena Mohammad Rahamatul Muneem.

Officials from both sides jointly visited the disputed enclave on Thursday and after that, held a meeting at Majumder Haat in Bangladesh, opposite southern Tripura’s sub-divisional town Belonia.

The final meeting was held in Dhaka on Friday.

The Tripura official, who was a part of the Indian delegation, said that after the fixing of the boundary along Muhurichar enclave, both countries would construct embankments to protect the respective bordering towns, villages and other important installations.

“Ranganathan held a meeting with Chief Minister Manik Sarkar here on Wednesday and discussed the Muhurichar enclave,” the official said but refused to divulge anything about the discussions at the meeting.

On the background of the issue, Tripura’s Revenue, PWD and Health Minister Badal Choudhury told IANS that “decades before creation of Bangladesh in 1971, around 60 Indian farmers have been cultivating in the 63-acre Muhurichar enclave area”.

“The India-Bangladesh Joint Boundary Working Group meeting held in Dhaka last year had decided that the two countries would once again conduct joint survey in the 63-acre Muhurichar area to resolve the deadlock,” he added.

As part of the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 and its 2011 Protocol, India gave away to Bangladesh 110 of the 111 enclaves and received 51 enclaves on July 31 midnight last year, but the talks over Muhurichar had remained inconclusive.

“There is no problem over other enclaves, including northern Tripura’s Chandannagar. But as the Survey of India, along with its Bangladeshi counterpart, unilaterally demarcated Muhurichar enclave without any consultation and contact with the Tripura government, the enclave has remained undecided so far,” said Choudhury, who hails from the Belonia sub-division under which the Muhurichar enclave falls.

“Of the 63-acre Muhurichar area, we have no objection in giving some portion of land to Bangladesh after ensuring a perfect demarcation of the areas. There are three separate cremation grounds of three religious communities in the Muhurichar area for several decades.

“The real tussle between India and the then East Pakistan over Muhurichar area started since early 1965. For many years, soldiers of the then East Pakistan and subsequently Border Guard Bangladesh occasionally fired at the Indian side, killing and injuring many,” he added.

Border guards of both the countries have even engaged in many skirmishes since 1978 over Muhurichar enclave.

According to South Tripura district officials, a proposal has been submitted to the Union government to provide compensation to the affected Indian farmers in the area.

Since the Partition of India in 1947, the Muhuri river along Muhurichar was considered a natural boundary with then East Pakistan.

–IANS

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