Indian or Bangladeshi, properties play key role in decision making

Some Hindus opted to stay back in Bangladesh as they have large tracks of land

Indian or Bangladeshi, properties play key role in decision making

The historic land boundary agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh will bring to an end the six-decade-long apathy faced by more than 50,000 people living in around the 150 enclaves.

Unlike the partition of 1947, the process will be benign, with no bloodshed or communal strife and the residents of these enclaves will get an opportunity to choose between the two nations to call their homeland.

While all the 14,215 people living across 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India have opted to stay back as Indian citizens, of the 37,369 people living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, only 743 people have shown a desire to migrate back to India.

Though the bureaucratic machinery is yet to take over, the desires of these people living in land-locked islands for more than six decades was expressed in a survey conducted by the Bharat Bangladesh Chhitmahal Samannay Committee (BBCSC), an NGO that has been working with both governments to coordinate the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.

BBCSC chief coordinator Diptiman Sengupta informed that the total population at the enclaves along the Indo-Bangladesh border close to West Bengal was found to be 51,584, following a joint census operation by the two countries in 2011, which is a count of 35 heads more than what the NGO had done in a census in 2010.

“Of this, 37,369 people live at enclaves in Bangladesh and 14,215 people live at enclaves in India. During our survey, we found that only 150 Indian families living in 69 of 111 inhabited enclaves in Bangladesh are willing to migrate to India. Their total number comes to 743,” he said. Sengupta pointed out that the list containing these 743 people have been formulated keeping in mind three basic concerns. “We were categorical that anybody having any criminal case against them in Bangladesh will not be allowed to migrate. Those having their names enrolled in a voters’ list anywhere in Bangladesh will not be able to migrate. Also, we are not going to provide any sort of compensation in terms of money or property for the sake of migration and one willing to do so will be doing it because he or she has some connection with India,” he stated.

Of the 14,000 now living in India, 86 per cent are Muslims but they prefer to stay back.

Talking about why only around 700 people from among more than 37,000 were willing to migrate, Sengupta explained that those who want to stay back are owners of large land holdings. “Most people who have decided to stay back in Bangladesh are Muslims, forming 92 per cent of the population at Indian enclaves in Bangladesh. Some Hindus have also opted to stay back because they own large tracts of land. Those among the willing 743 who are Muslims but have opted to become Indian citizens are mostly agricultural labourers and they realise their earnings would significantly increase in India,” Sengupta said.

“Most of these people without land work as agricultural labourers or as rickshaw-pullers in Bangladeshi cities like Dhaka, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Chittagong. They want to come here because on an average they earn Taka 350 a day, which in any Indian metro will go up to Rs 800 a day. Some of the Hindus who have decided to join India work in small hotels and restaurants. They feel they will get better opportunities in cities like Kolkata, Delhi or Mumbai, where they know people,” Sengupta said.

The BBCSC pointed out that most people have opted to stay back in the nation where their enclave is situated because of sentimental reasons, since they have spent almost three generations in these enclaves.

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