Katchatheevu issue: Congress rebuts PM Modi’s charges; slams BJP’s diversionary tactics

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that history has been twisted to defame Congress leaders, ignoring the broader contexts of past decisions.

BySouth First Desk

Published Mar 31, 2024 | 4:41 PM Updated Mar 31, 2024 | 4:46 PM

Jairam Ramesh

Congress has issued a comprehensive rebuttal to recent allegations made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the Katchatheevu issue.

It has highlighted what the party perceives as diversionary tactics and a distortion of history by BJP.

The issue pertains to an RTI query revealing that Indira Gandhi, as prime minister, ceded an island to Sri Lanka.

“The President of BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit files a RTI query to create a diversionary issue in Tamil Nadu. While lakhs of RTI queries on pressing public issues are ignored or rejected, this one gets VVIP treatment and gets answered rapidly [sic],” Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday, 31 March.

“The BJP’s Tamil Nadu president very conveniently ‘places’ the reply to his query in some friendly sections of the media. The prime minister immediately amplifies the issue. Talk of match-fixing!” he added.

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Distortion of history to defame Congress

The senior Congress leader said history was being twisted to defame Congress leaders, ignoring the broader contexts of past decisions.

“In 1974, the same year that Katchatheevu became part of Sri Lanka, the Sirima Bandaranaike-Indira Gandhi Pact allowed the repatriation of 600,000 Tamil people from Sri Lanka to India. In a single move, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi secured human rights and dignity for six lakh hitherto stateless people [sic],” pointed out Jairam Ramesh.

He drew attention to the Modi government’s signing of the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh in 2015, which resulted in the relinquishment of 17,161 acres of Indian territory, while receiving only 7,110 acres in return.

Despite concerns, Congress supported the Bill in both Houses of Parliament, he said.

Also Read: Ahead of LS polls, Katchatheevu turns ammo for BJP to attack Congress

On securing Indian borders

The real threat to the integrity of the nation has been the large-scale encroachment of the Chinese PLA on Indian territory in the last few years, said the Congress leader, highlighting the prime minister’s apparent failure to fulfil promises of securing Indian borders.

“The Prime Minister, who came to power on the promise of showing a ‘Lal Aankh’ to China, instead gave a clean chit to the Chinese on June 19th, 2020, by declaring that not a single Chinese soldier has crossed over into Indian territory – even as the BJP’s own MPs have confirmed Chinese incursions onto our land [sic],” he said.

Citing the desperation of the prime minister and his drumbeaters, Ramesh added that the people of Tamil Nadu have seen through the political games and that they would deliver a “befitting reply” in the upcoming elections on 19 April.

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PM’s allegations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day cited a media report to assert that Congress “callously” gave away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.

“Eye opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away Katchatheevu. This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people’s minds- we can’t ever trust Congress [sic],” he said on X, sharing the report.

The report is based on an RTI reply Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai received on the decision of the then Indira Gandhi government in 1974 to hand over the territory in Palk Strait to the neighbouring country.

The report also cites first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s comments on the issue, a source of dispute between India and Lanka, that he would have no hesitation in giving up claims on the island.

Annamalai in a video post on X, also came down heavily on the Congress, saying that the Congress and the DMK government under Kalaignar Karunanidhi colluded in ceding away the Katchtheevu island to Sri Lanka.

He said that despite the opinion of the then attorney general MC Setalvad in 1960, that India had a stronger claim on the island and that the sovereignty of the island was and is in India, Nehru dismissed the issue as inconsequential.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)