SS (UBT) slams BJP for its ‘political claims’ on India ceding land to Sri Lanka in 1974

Mumbai, April 1 – The Shiv Sena (UBT) on Monday criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for making “politically motivated” allegations that India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had ‘ceded’ the Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka.

SS (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made serious allegations on this issue by quoting an RTI reply “for political point scoring” in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections with the hope to bag some seats in Tamil Nadu and dividing the electorate by ‘casting aspersions’.

“Let’s remember such decisions are taken by governments, which includes inputs and advice from professionals like diplomats, military officers, legal advisors and bureaucrats. To reduce them to one leader or one party is undemocratic, because a government is more than just one person,” said Chaturvedi.

She pointed out that the RTI query was filed by a BJP leader who is contesting the election from TN and information shared is by the BJP government at the centre for scoring some political brownie points.

“Going by the BJP logic, will anyone from Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh file an RTI regarding the land-grab by China after the ‘jhoola’ diplomacy of the PM and his declaration that nobody entered Indian territory nor is any of our post is in someone else’s control, after the (June 2020) Galwan Valley clashes,” Chaturvedi said. She questioned whether the BJP would file an RTI to know how Nepal released a map in 2020, claiming three villages in the Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limipiyadhura (in Uttarakhand) as part of its territory.

Referring to PM Modi’s tweet on Katchatheevu Island, Chaturvedi said that India withdrew its claim on the isle during negotiations with Sri Lanka to normalise relations in 1974, when Indira Gandhi was PM and the DMK government in TN then did not object to it.

“India could not produce documentary evidence of historical fishing rights on this (Katchatheevu) island in Palk Strait whereas Sri Lanka had documentary evidence to prove its claim. The total land involved was 150 acres of this island and with that Indira Gandhi as PM also ensured the repatriation of 6 lakh Tamilians to India,” said Chaturvedi.

She charged the government with ceding 112 enclaves to Bangladesh in return for 55 enclaves in a bid to resolve the border dispute with the neighbour, pending since Partition, owing to the ill-defined border lines in Sunderbans Delta.

“In total, India ceded more than 15,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in a bid to strengthen the relationship with its neighbour. This was hailed as path breaking and rightly so as larger neighbour India was looked at as magnanimous and large hearted in this agreement,” said Chaturvedi.

However, the manner in which PM is raking the 1974 agreement on Katchatheevu, withdrawing India’s claim, trying to show down the previous government and questioning India’s international agreement with a neighbour is “not in good stead for our neighbourhood security and international relations”.

She recalled how in October 2014, the then Attorney-General of India Mukul Rohatgi had said in the Supreme Court in October 2014 to the question of Sri Lanka arresting Indian fishermen fishing off the coast of this island, “that the island claim was withdrawn and it was handed over to Sri Lanka after due process and international law”.

Chaturvedi also said that the Ministry of External Affairs could look into the ‘discrepancies’ in its RTI responses of 2015 and 2024 on the issue, when the current External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was the Foreign Secretary.

In 2015, the RTI reply said that “this did not involve either acquiring or ceding territory belonging to India since the area in question had never been demarcated… Under the Agreements, the island of Katchatheevu lies on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line”.

Chaturvedi said that now, “the government claims it has been ceded and questioned if the change in stance is for electoral politics to gain something in the TN Lok Sabha or the PM has made a case for Sri Lanka”.


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