Coochbehar, Aug 1: The much-awaited exchange of enclaves (Chhitmahals) between India and Bangladesh came into effect from Friday midnight. At 12.01 AM, the enthusiastic dwellers hoisted Indian national flag.
Though, no official ceremony was held but an organisation named Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-ordination Committee (BBEECC) organised a ceremony at Madhya Masaldanga enclave adjacent to Dinhata sub-division of Cooch Behar at night.
To mark the occasion of exchange, the BBEECC organised a festive ceremony at Madhya Masaldanga enclave, which was an enclave of Bangladesh encircled by Indian territory a few moments ago.
“We were facing lots of problems as we were trapped between India and Bangladesh…We never had any identity proof, we neither belonged to India nor to Bangladesh. We faced problems in getting admission to schools, we faced problems going to hospitals…We are very happy now, we are happier than Eid or Durga Puja festivals,” said Ibrahim Sheik, resident of Coochbehar.
“We are happy that both governments have solved the problems. Now, we will be able get our identity cards, aadhar cards and all. We will get nationality….we are going to celebrate today,” added Alamgir Hussain, another resident of Coochbehar.
There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India which were exchanged pursuant to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol, instruments of ratification of which were exchanged during Prime Minister Modi’s visit.
After successfully completing the exercise of ascertaining nationality options of enclave residents, the ground has been prepared for the movement of such residents who exercise the option of moving from an Indian enclave to the Indian mainland.
Both governments have worked closely together to facilitate trouble-free movement of these residents before the stipulated date of November 30, 2015.
Other steps with regard to implementation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol are underway in accordance with agreed modalities between Government of India and Bangladesh.
The Office of the Registrar General of India, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and DM, Cooch Behar and DCs of Lalmonirhat, Panchagarh, Kurigram and Nilphamari worked systematically and in a coordinated fashion to collect the options from the residents.
The actual option taking exercise was carried out by 75 teams operating in the enclaves in India and Bangladesh from July 6-16 this year. Thirty observers from both governments were also present in the enclaves during this survey period.
Data from this joint exercise is now being verified by the Office of the Registrar General of India and the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
(With Agency Inputs)