India’s Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the bill to operationalise the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh, and the entailing exchange of enclaves between the two countries, agencies report.The Constitution (One Hundred and Nineteenth Amendment) Bill, 2013, was unanimously passed by the upper house, with 180 votes in favour and none against it.
Moving the bill for passage, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj clarified that no movement of population was necessitated by the exchange of enclaves.
“If Indians in Bangladeshi enclaves want to stay there, they will be given Bangladeshi citizenship and if Bangladeshis living in Indian enclaves want to stay, they will be given Indian citizenship,” she said. The bill, which the Bharatiya Janata Party, Asom Gana Parishad and Trinamool Congress had opposed when it was brought by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2013, amends the First Schedule of the Constitution to give effect to an agreement entered into by India and Bangladesh on the acquiring and transfer of territories between the two countries on May 16, 1974.
In 2011, then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina had signed the land swap deal known as the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). The constitutional amendment bill to operationalise the agreement was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2013 but could not be passed due to stiff opposition. When the Narendra Modi government came in power, the bill was again sent to the standing committee on the external affairs ministry, and a report was presented in December 2014.
The First Schedule defines the area of each state and union territory which together constitute India.The bill to operationalise the agreement with Bangladesh includes exchange of territories in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya, and was cleared by the union cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday.