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Hitting back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his charge that Indira Gandhi gave away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday asked why he did not take steps to get it back during his 10-year rule and alleged that raising the “sensitive” issue ahead of elections shows his “desperation”.

The opposition leader also questioned why the prime minister gave a “clean chit” to China after 20 bravehearts made supreme sacrifice in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh. Kharge said that Katchatheevu island was given to Sri Lanka as part of a friendly agreement in 1974 and reminded the Modi government that it too had undertaken a similar “friendly gesture” towards Bangladesh in exchange for border enclaves.

“Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi ji, You have suddenly woken up to the issues of territorial integrity and national security in your 10th year of misrule. Perhaps, elections are the trigger. Your desperation is palpable,” he said in a post on X.

Citing his statement made in 2015, he said the prime minister had said, “The Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh is not just about realignment of land, it is about a meeting of hearts”.
“This is your own statement in 2015 lauding your own government’s realisation of Smt. Indira Gandhi’s initiative in 1974,” Kharge said.

He also alleged, “Under your Government, in a friendly gesture, 111 enclaves from India were transferred to Bangladesh, and 55 enclaves came to India.” In 1974, the Congress chief said, a similar agreement, based on a friendly gesture, was initiated with another country – Sri Lanka on Katchatheevu.

“On the eve of elections in Tamil Nadu, you are raising this sensitive issue, but your own Government’s Attorney General, Shri Mukul Rohtagi in 2014 told the following to the Supreme Court – ‘Katchatheevu went to Sri Lanka by an agreement in 1974′ How can it be taken back today? If you want Katchatheevu back, you will have to go to war to get it back’.

“Pradhan Mantri ji, you should tell, did your government take any steps to resolve this issue and take back Katchatheevu,” he asked. “Gandhi ji, Pandit Nehru ji, Sardar Patel ji, Indira Gandhi ji, Rajiv Gandhi ji – all our beloved leaders lived and died for India’s unity, our territorial integrity. “Sardar Patel ji played a vital role in uniting 600 princely states.

“In contrast, you, PM Modi, gave a clean chit to China, after 20 bravehearts made supreme sacrifice in Galwan Valley…,” the Congress chief said. Kharge also questioned the government’s foreign policy concerning India’s neighbours including Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.

“It is the first time in history, that Pakistan bought weapons from Russia, due to your foreign policy failure,” he alleged. There is not a single village in India, he said, where a Congressperson has not shed blood for the unity of the nation.

“It was the Congress under the guidance of our leaders Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi who gave away their lives to successfully fight violent secessionist forces and maintained the unity and integrity of the nation by successfully keeping Punjab, Assam, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu and Nagaland among others, within the Indian Union, and merging Sikkim and Goa with India,” he said.

It was the Congress, he said, that despite severe constraints, kept the issue of Tibet’s sovereignty alive, “only to be summarily squandered by a predecessor PM of your party”. “Stop this obsession with the Congress, and reflect on your own misdeeds, due to which India is suffering,” Kharge said in his post.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “Unable to answer to his own poor record of national security, and faced with getting exactly zero seats in Tamil Nadu, the PM and his drumbeaters have become desperate. The people of Tamil Nadu have seen through these games and will give a befitting reply on April 19th”.

“Aap chronology samajhiye: The president of BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit files an 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,” he said.

Ramesh said the BJP’s Tamil Nadu president very conveniently “places” the reply to his query in some friendly sections of the media and the prime minister immediately amplifies the issue.
“Talk of match-fixing!” said Ramesh. “History is twisted and distorted. Congress leaders are defamed, ignoring the circumstances and contexts in which these decisions were taken,” Ramesh said.

He said in 1974, the same year that Katchatheevu became part of Sri Lanka, the Sirima Bandaranaike-Indira Gandhi Pact allowed the repatriation of 6,00,000 Tamil people from Sri Lanka to India. In a single move, former prime minister Indira Gandhi secured human rights and dignity for six lakh hitherto stateless people, he said, adding that in 2015, the Modi government signed the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that gave up 17,161 acres of Indian territory while receiving only 7,110 acres.
“Effectively, India’s land area shrunk by 10,051 acres. Rather than make juvenile allegations on the prime minister, the Congress Party supported the Bill in both Houses of Parliament.

“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,” the Congress leader said. “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 19, 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,” he said.

Modi on Sunday cited a media report to assert that new facts reveal that the 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,” he said on X, sharing the report. Modi added, “Weakening India’s unity, integrity and interests has been Congress’ way of working for 75 years and counting.”