Freedom at midnight as 111 enclaves awake to new life in Bangladesh | Greenwatch Dhaka | The leading online daily of Bangladesh

Freedom at midnight as 111 enclaves awake to new life in Bangladesh


Dotted lights pierced the midnight darkness to herald a new dawn of freedom in 111 enclaves which became part of Bangladesh when the clock struck a minute past midnight on Friday.The swap of control of 162 little ‘land islands’ with India well and truly buried the legacy of one of the most complex and puzzling border disputes.Bangladesh flags fluttered over every house that was illuminated with 68 earthen lamps to symbolise the end of that many years of neglect and deprivation.There were scenes of joy in the enclaves that went to India – somewhat muted, as the nation was mourning former president APJ Abul Kalam.With the exchange of enclaves between two countries, around 50,000 people have finally been able to purge the ignominy of being subjugated in one’s own country.The people of these pockets had been effectively cut off from the country they belonged to and forced to live in another in a bizarre arrangement.Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in June said Bangladesh will gain 10,050 acres of land in the exchange.According to the Land Boundary Agreement between the two neighbours, from Aug 1, some 17,160 acres of land within Bangladesh territory became part of it.Similarly, 51 Bangladeshi enclaves spread over nearly 7,110 acres within India became part of that country.A joint India-Bangladesh headcount in mid-2011 found Bangladeshi enclaves had around 14,000 residents while the Indian ones were home to 37,000.The land swap has finally rectified the territorial anomaly and settled the boundary between the two countries. All the residents were allowed to choose nationality.The genesis of the problem goes back to 1947 when British rulers had left behind the oddity of the enclaves while partitioning India.In 1974 Indira-Mujib Agreement was signed to settle the vexed issue inherited since the hurriedly drawn boundary after the partition. To operationalise the agreement, a protocol was signed in 2011.On May 7, after India’s Parliament ratified the agreement, the decks were cleared for the exchange of enclaves.Accordingly, during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit, LBA ratification documents were exchanged.As these enclaves were cut off from their country, there was virtually no administrative or government presence there.The residents were denied access to basic facilities like government schools, health centres, electricity or even the judiciary.As a result of such peculiar situation, many could not provide education to the children while others had to forge identities to send their wards to schools.But as they were residents of enclaves, they were deprived of job opportunities.In India, all the enclaves are in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal while in Bangladesh they are scattered across Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Kurhigram and Nilphamari districts.President of the Bangladesh unit of the Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee Mainul Haque told in order to mark the end of 68 years of exploitation and neglect, that many number of earthen lamps or candles were lit in all the enclaves on either side of the border.All the dark alleys in the enclaves were lit up with torches and hot air balloons were also sent up in the sky.National flags were hoisted in all the enclaves.Haque said to make the day memorable, the citizen committees of the enclaves organised games, dramas and other cultural events.


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