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HVK Archives: One lakh people gather to protest farakka accord

One lakh people gather to protest farakka accord - BJP Today

Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
16-28 February 1997

Title : One lakh people gather to protest farakka accord
Author :
Publication : BJP Today
Date : February 16-28, 1997

The West Bengal unit of the BJP organised a huge rally at Farakka
on January 28 to protest against the Ganga water sharing accord
signed between Shri H.D. Deve Gowda and Bangladesh Prime Minister.
Sheikh Hasina.

Although the United Front and the CPI(M) have hailed the accord as
a diplomatic achievement. in reality it has seriously imperiled
eastern India's economy as well as gravely compromised our national

That there is tremendous resentment against the West Bengal Chief
Minister. Shri Jyoti Basu for brokering the agreement. was proved
on January 28 at Farakka.

By early morning this small town on the banks of the Ganga was full
of tens of thousands of people who had come from distant places in
West Bengal and Bihar.

Thousands of them had come by boats and buses. many more by trains.
It seemed as if these men. women and children had come on a
pilgrimage they bathed in Mother Ganga. put on fresh clothes and
marched on to the rally ground, raising slogans against the
unilateral gifting of the holy river's life-sustaining water.

Shri L.K. Advani, BJP President. Shri Sikander Bakht. Leader of
the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and Smt. Vasundhara Raje, BJP
MP, had traveled from Delhi to join the protectors. The entire
leadership of West Bengal Unit of the BJP was present in full

Shri Advani and the others began the day with a visit to the
Farakka Barrage Project where they had a ritual dip in the Ganges.
Later in the day they were joined by Shri Kailashpati Misra, Shri
Sushil Modi. Leader of opposition in Bihar Assembly. and Shri
Saryu Rai, Bihar BJP leader.

Shri Advani later addressed the rally, attended by one lakh people.
He explained how the interests of West Bengal and Bihar had been
compromised by the U.F. Government. Shri Jyoti Basu, by playing
the role of a broker. had ignored the interests of his own State.
The West Bengal police and the local intelligence. wing estimated
the crowd at more than 70,000 !

This was the largest rally at Farakka since Mrs. Indira Gandhi's
visit to the town. Understandably, it has left the CPI(M)-led Left
Front badly rattled.

The local administration and police, controlled by the ruling CPI
(M)-led Left Front. failed to make adequate arrangements for the
crowds that had gathered under the BJP banner.

Thousands of the gathered men, women and children had come by
boats. thousands by buses and many more by trains from distant
Those who had come by trains were stranded at Farakka Station
because, in their wisdom and for reasons best known to them. the
railway authorities had detained several trains at various places
for hours. As a result, the crowd, which would have dispersed had
the trains arrived on time at Farakka, kept on swelling at the
railway station.

At the railway station, the authorities had disconnected the power
supply and there was total darkness. This added to the confusion.
The crowd was understandably agitated by the time the Gaur Express
entered Farakka Station. People tried to board the train but found
most of the bogeys locked from inside. The local railway
authorities did not do anything to solve this riddle.

Yes, the irate crowd did break some window panes - four, to be
precise - of an Air-Conditioned coach. But no Minister was
manhandled, nor was anybody robbed. To claim so would be to tell a
lie. And to publish this wild allegation amounts to wilful
vilification of the BJP.

Shri L.K. Advani, president of the BJP. Shri Sikander Bakht,
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and all the senior BJP
leaders of the West Bengal unit of the party were in the coach
adjacent to the one whose four window panes were smashed. If the
two Ministers (Mr Biswanath Chowdhury and Ms Minati Ghosh), who
claim they were travelling by Gaur Express, had indeed been set
upon. as they have alleged after reaching Calcutta. then they could
have easily lodged a similar complaint with Shri Advani who
travelled on the same train.

The truth is that the CPI(M)-led Left Front. more so the West
Bengal Chief Minister. Shri Jyoti Basu, are rattled by the turnout
at the rally. Neither Shri Basu nor his acolytes in the Left Front
could have imagined that one lakh people would gather to raise
their voice against the gifting away of Ganga waters. Hence an
attempt is now being made to discredit the rally by levelling wild
allegations which have no foundation in truth.

It is a pity that some newspapers have chosen to publish the piece
of fiction put out by a Left Front running scared and thus played
into the hands of the West Bengal Government. This is hardly fair

The Agreement on the sharing of the Ganga waters signed between
India and Bangladesh. popularly known as the 'Farakka Accord", on
December 12, 1996, has been hailed by the United Front and the
CPI(M) as a -great diplomatic achievements In the absence of any
achievement in domestic affairs, the Prime Minister has sought to
portray the unilateral gifting of Ganga water to Bangladesh at the
expense of our eastern hinterland's economy as some sort of a
breakthrough in foreign affairs.

The truth is that the United Front Government lacks the political
courage to exercise tough options, more so in the international
arena. As a result, the line of least resistance has come to
substitute policy at the Foreign Office -- rather than speak in
clear, unambiguous terms, the Foreign Minister. adequately backed
by the Left, has decided to -solve' outstanding bilateral problems
through the expedient means of abject capitulation in the face of
outrageous demands. This capitulation is unlikely to end with the
United Front giving away Ganga water. Tomorrow we may well find
the Gowda Government gifting our national territory to Pakistan to
buy peace with the belligerent Establishment in Islamabad known for
its shrill anti-India rhetoric. If the West Bengal Chief Minister,
Mr Jyoti Basu. was more than happy to play broker in the east,
another Chief Minister will be eager to play broker in the west.
Let there be no doubt about that.

"What to do?" the Prime Minister will mumble. The "humble farmer"
from Karnataka cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of
foreign policy or appreciate the role of river waters in the
nation's security scenario. These are issues, he would argue. best
left to Foreign Minister Inder Kumar Gujral who, in true India
International Centre fashion, is obsessed with the interests of
every country barring those of India, and Defence Minister Mulayam
Singh Yadav whose perspective is limited to the votebanks of Uttar

The manner in which India's interests are being ignored by this
clique is best exemplified by the Farakka accord which is not only
a total sell-out of West Bengal's and, therefore, the eastern
hinterland's interests but also compromises our national security
interests. The issue of sharing Farakka waters is not as simple as
it has been made out to be: After all, it was not for nothing that
the Farakka barrage was constructed three decades ago. The barrage
was constructed with the specific purpose of ensuring sufficient
water to Prevent Calcutta Port from getting silted. No less
important is the fact that lower West Bengal needs agricultural
water. Both of them were and remain strategic requirements. It is
also pertinent to bear in mind the requirements of Uttar Pradesh
and Bihar.

Over the years, the Bhagirathi's inflow has fallen drastically
because of increased use of water upstream in Uttar Pradesh and
Bihar. In fact, during the lean season of March-May. there is
barely enough water at Farakka to take care of India's needs.
Therefore, by diverting water to Bangladesh from the present meagre
inflow will amount to killing the eastern hinterland to please
Bangladesh. It also sends across the message to Dhaka that it need
not invest in its own economy but can depend on New Delhi to
subsidise it by passing on the cost to Indians! If the United Front
had the requisite political courage and gumption, it would have
asked Bangladesh to invest in husbanding the more than abundant
water of the 54 trains-boundary waterways that constitute the
Padma-Brahmaputra basin and flows unused into the Bay of Bengal.

It would have made some sense if India had used Farakka waters to
bargain a deal with Bangladesh and secured the country's interests
while parting with our resources. But all outstanding issues that
have been tormenting us for decades and posing a serious threat to
our national security have been ignored. and intentionally so, by
the United Front. Some of these issues are:

Hindus and other religious minorities continue to flee persecution
in Bangladesh. At the time of Partition. the Hindu population of
that country which formed the eastern wing of Pakistan, was 29 per,
cent. Today it is less than 12 per cent! What happened to the
Nehru-Liaquat Agreement which continues to impose a moral and legal
responsibility on Dhaka?

If Hindus and others like the Chakmas are fleeing Bangladesh to
save their lives, lakhs of Muslims are crossing over into West
Bengal, encouraged by the establishment in Dhaka which believes
that India must provide its surplus population with "lebensraum".
the "living space" which the Nazis sought while annexing territory
after territory. Only this time the method used is different:
Send tide after tide of infiltrators to swamp the eastern and
north-eastern States of India. Dhaka need not worry because the
Marxists, the Congress and all the assorted parties who form the
secular brigade are too emaciated and too driven by the lure of
easy votes to protest.

Official statistics speak for themselves: The national average
increase in population between 1981 and 1991 was 23.17 per cent.
West Bengal's population increase during the same period was 24.73
per cent: the increase in the State's Muslim population was 36.89
per cent! The population of Nadia district has increased by 413 per
cent in four decades. In the decades between 1981-91. West
Dinajpur's population has gone up by 30 per cent; that of North
24-Parganas by 31 per cent. South 24-Parganas by 30 per cent;
Malda by 29 per cent. In Murshidabad district. Lalgola PS has
recorded an increase of 44 per cent and Ghuliyan 56 per cent in its

Bangladesh, of course, claims that there are no Bangladeshis living
illegally in India, a claim put on record both by Begum Khaleda Zia
and her successor Sheikh Hasina. Both of them. incidentally, have
seen the sprawling Bangladeshi slums that dot Delhi.

Yet, the United Front has refused to take up this matter with
Bangladesh, just like the Congress refused to take it up while it
was in power. The last time that the issue was tentatively
broached was in April 1995. that too at the level of the Joint
Working Group. The reason for the reluctance of the United Front as
well as the CPI(M) to take up this issue can be found in the fact
that one Left Front Minister was found recommending the
applications for Indian passports by 239 Bangladeshis; it can be
found in the fact that the Left Front has enrolled tens of
thousands of Bangladeshis in Bongaon on the electoral list to
defeat the sitting Congress MLA!

The issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh is not a
humanitarian problem. It is a national problem, one that threatens
our demography and adds to our economic burden. If there is a
humanitarian problem. it is the issue of Chakma refugees who have
been forced into a miserable existence after fleeing the wrath of
Muslim settlers in Chittagong Hill Tracts. If there is a
humanitarian problem, it is the issue of providing West Dinajpur
with a corridor that will link it with Jalpaiguri -- the Tefulia
corridor that should have been the natural reciprocal gesture after
India provided Bangladesh with the Tin Bigha corridor. If there is
a humanitarian problem, it is of allowing the North-Eastern States
of India access to the Chittagong Port.

But the callous ruling clique of the day does not see these as
problems. For it, what constitutes a humanitarian problem is
Dhaka's insistent demand for more and more. The solution to this
problem, according to the United Front and the Left Front, lies in
giving in to Dhaka's demands, capitulating in the face of
anti-India hysteria that has come to define politics in Bangladesh.

By the same token, we should be prepared for the present regime to
concede Pakistan's demands. Having placated our neighbour in the
cast with water, it can be expected to placate our neighbour in the
west with territory!

The BJP, which has launched an agitation against the Farakka deal,
will take it to its logical conclusion - to not only protect the
country's interests but to foil the perverted designs of the United
Front to gift away what rightfully belongs to India.

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