Economy

India, Bangladesh sign historic land boundary agreement

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata. June 6 | Updated on January 24, 2018

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on Saturday. Photo: PTI

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They have been waiting for this day since August 15, 1947.

The wait has been particularly long in last couple of years after the former Manmohan Singh government brought the Constitutional amendment bill for Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh but failed to get it through.

But, approximately 51,000 people, living without a nation, in 111 enclaves of either country (land parcels located across the border) didn’t give up hope. They were keeping track of political developments - be in New Delhi or Dhaka - blow by blow, moment by moment.

The history is captured in their daily facebook updates.

The wait was finally over at 4.11 pm on June 6, 2015, when Indian Prime Minister entered the final pact for ratification of a 41 year agreement to swap the land parcels. At the stroke of a pen, approximately 14,000 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside West Bengal in India; became Indian.

“We are celebrating Independence dada. It will be a night long celebration,” Saddam Miah of Poaturkuthi, in Cooch Behar district, was screaming at top of his voice. The conversation was made impossible by a loudspeaker, belching out some Hindi film songs, in the background.

It was Independence Day at enclaves in India and Bangladesh. From today there will be no Chhit-Mahal, as they were locally referred.

Both the countries offered the enclave dwellers a choice of returning to their (notional) mother land or stay back wherever they are. According to a July 2011 survey by Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC) Saddams - irrespective of caste, creed and religion - wouldn’t be leaving India.

BBEECC was the guiding force in demanding ratification of LBA.

But, many from the Bangladeshi side - that includes some Hindu minorities and a few poor Muslims – would be crossing over to India. They are pinning hopes to do better in the relatively more prosperous Indian economy.

Delhi has already allocated a huge Rs 3,008 crore package for their rehabilitation in West Bengal.

But none of those were in consideration today.

At the 51 formerly Bangladeshi enclaves which are now an integral part of India; it was day for endless celebration with the Indian tri-colour.

Poaturkuthi, Balapukhari, Mashaldanga – if facebook images are to be believed, the scene is same everywhere; men are dancing on the streets ignoring scorching sun.; women distributing sweets and children are soaking every bit of this new found freedom.

Only one man, Diptiman Sengupta - the face of BBECC - is not celebrating. Quarter of a century ago, his father Dipak Sengupta initiated the movement for freedom of enclave residents in India. But, it was Diptiman who gave it the much needed teeth.

Diptiman is surely happy to have achieved the goal. But, tonight he would be busy to keep the celebration within manageable limits and avoid any untoward incident.

“For so many years they were persecuted and treated as outsiders in India. Law enforcing agencies had picked them up from market place for trespassing into India. Indian neighbours took advantage of their predicaments. Now that they are free, I have to be careful that it breaks no boundaries,” he said.

Published on June 06, 2015

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