Enclave swap in limbo
Indira-Mujib treaty still awaits ratification by IndiaMustafizur Rahman
Exchange of enclaves between Bangladesh and India seems to have become uncertain with the ratification of land boundary deal still pending for approval by Indian parliament even 38 years after signing of the bilateral treaty.
Dhaka and Delhi had signed an agreement on exchange of the enclaves during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011 with an aim to bringing an end to the miseries of the people living in enclaves on both sides of the border between the two countries ‘without any official identity’.
Officials in Dhaka said that the Indian government had taken a ‘go slow policy’ in execution of the land protocol signed for exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh under the Indira-Mujib land boundary agreement of 1974.
‘Indian authorities have assured us that they have taken steps for ratification of the land boundary treaty by their parliament. The matter is likely to be placed in Lok Sabha in the next session in February,’ home ministry’s additional secretary (political) Kamal Uddin Ahmed, also head of the Joint Boundary Working Group, told New Age.
He said it was ‘very sad’ that the enclave people did not have any national identity or any right to basic needs. The exchange of the landlocked areas would resolve the long standing issue, the official added.
It has been reported that Indian political parties have not yet reached a consensus on the issue as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bharatiya Janata Party had disputes over the agreement. But the central government was making efforts to get the consent of Mamata, said the home ministry officials in Dhaka.
The people living in 162 enclaves without basic rights have long been demanding merger of the landlocked areas with respective mainland as per the land boundary agreement.
In a bid to end the uncertainty and sufferings of the enclave people and resolve the long-standing disputes over border, Bangladesh and India on September 6, 2011 signed a protocol on the land boundary agreement.
Subject to ratification by the two governments, the protocol included exchange of enclaves, transfer of adversely possessed land in the border, settlement of 6.5 kilometres of undemarcated land boundary and the signing of strip maps.
Residents of the enclaves –111 of India located inside Bangladesh and 51 of Bangladesh inside India – have been living in miseries as governments of the two countries have failed to settle the issue left pending since partition of the sub-continent in 1947.
Over 51,000 enclave people are suffering as neither Bangladesh nor India could give any timeframe for exchange of the landlocked areas, according to enclave leaders.
‘We have lost our hope with India still buying time to ratify the Mujib-Indira land boundary treaty, which stipulates expeditious exchange of the enclaves subject to ratification of the accord by both the countries,’ India-Bangladesh Enclaves Exchange Coordination Committee’s Bangladesh unit general secretary Ghulam Mostafa told New Age on Saturday.
He said the committee would launch a fresh movement if the treaty was not ratified by the Indian parliament in February. ‘We cannot believe anyone until we get our identity,’ he said.
Enclave dwellers said the first-ever joint headcount conducted in July, 2011 with a view to exchange the areas in adverse possession renewed hopes among the residents of the enclaves.
They said that there were no authorities to look after their welfare and they were not even allowed to enter their mainland.
The number of people living in the Indian enclaves located in four districts of Bangladesh – Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram and Panchagarh – is 34,000 while the number of people in Bangladeshi enclaves inside the Indian district of Cooch Behar is 17,000, the joint headcount report says.
India has kept pending ratification of the land boundary agreement signed on May 16, 1974, halting the process of border demarcation and exchange of enclaves till date although Bangladesh ratified the treaty on November 27, 1974.
The enclave people both in India and Bangladesh are supposed to have ‘the right to stay where they are as nationals of the state to which the areas are transferred.’
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