India, Bangladesh all set for historic midnight swap of enclaves

31 July 2015

India and Bangladesh will implement a landmark exchange of 162 enclaves (51 in India and 111 in Bangladesh) at midnight tonight, solving a 44-year puzzle that evaded solution ever since the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

The exchange of 162 enclaves will take place on 31 July 2015, marking the start of implementation of their landmark land boundary agreement.

The exchange of the enclaves that will not involve any transfer of people will be one of the biggest boosts to bilateral relationship since the Ganga water sharing treaty at Farakka signed in 1996.

There are about 14,856 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside Indian territory and all of whom will get a homeland. However, none of them have opted for Bangladesh citizenship.

Across the border, 979 of the 37,369 living in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh have applied for Indian citizenship so far.
These tiny pockets of land that exist as enclaves in each other's territories will merge into the respective countries following the historic landmark land boundary agreement signed and ratified earlier this year.

However, a homeland after a 'stateless' existence of 68 years has given rise to an unease among prospective neighbours, more so on the Indian side of the border as some apprehend that criminals from Bangladesh may sneak into India, taking advantage of the enclave and population exchange.

The unease is about residents of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh who have applied for Indian citizenship and want to relocate to India.

At least 16 persons among the 979 who have applied for relocating to India are reported to have criminal cases against them in Bangladesh. Four of the applicants are hardcore Jamaat-e-Islami members, say reports.

The villagers, and even politicians, however, alleged that everything is not fair about the numbers being quoted. They say the list of people who intend to cross over to India with an Indian citizenship is being manipulated.

Villagers at one village alleged that only those who do not have land or property in Bangladesh have opted to come to India, while many who own property there are staying back, as they are facing difficulties in getting the right prices.

Local land sharks are forcing them to sell off the properties at meagre prices.

Reports quoting Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, who is the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, said he too smelt foul play.

He is also reported to have received several complaints that people who wanted to relocate to India are being intimidated by local goons.

While the complication is expected to be resolved with time as the process of relocation is to end by 20 June 2016, the mood in Bangladeshi enclaves in India is mostly of celebration.

 search domain-b