6 MONTHS AFTER BANGLADESH-INDIA LAND SWAP : Former enclave people yet to get citizenship documents

Mustafizur Rahman

The problem of statelessness continues to cause various sufferings to the Bangladeshis living in the 111 enclaves that were merged with the country six months ago following land swap with India.
Until the Bangladesh government provides them with the citizenship documents accessing the benefits entitled to the nationals would continue to be elusive for these people whose number is estimated at 39,697.
Their problems stem from inefficient handling of the issues by the authorities in Bangladesh, said the sufferers.
India quickly resolved the issues by providing citizenship to nearly 15,000 people living in 51 enclaves it got following the territory swap.
It took the two countries 41 years to implement the Land Boundary Agreement they  signed in 1974 to resolve the vexed issues facing populations in the territories in adverse possession which were called ‘enclaves’.
‘Only our life of confinement ended after 68 years,’ said Golam Mostafa who led the movement for the realisation of the rights of these people during their days in the enclaves.
‘Until we get our National Identity Cards, we can’t open bank accounts, nor we can seek passports,’ he said.
Mostafa said without birth certificates children can’t seek admission into schools either.
Access to healthcare, land registration and other basic amenities is also denied to people lacking the NID, the  proof of citizenship.
Lacking passports many Hajj aspirants dropped their plans, said many people.
The term ‘enclave’ disappeared from the diplomatic vocabulary of Bangladesh and India after the two countries exchanged 162 territories in adverse possession following which Bangladesh got 111 Indian enclaves located inside Bangladesh while India got 51 enclaves inside it belonging to Bangladesh.
The enclaves were swapped with the populations.
Only a handful of the enclave dwellers took the option of moving to their mainland leaving the homes, hearth and relatives in the enclaves that went to the other side.
Providing Bangladesh citizenship to the country’s new nationals is under process, home ministry joint secretary (political) Md Shafiqur Rahman told New Age Sunday.
Bangladesh got Indian enclaves located in Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Panchagarh while India got Bangladesh enclaves in Cooch Behar, West Bengal.

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