Indo-Bangla enclaves' history to be archived

Indo-Bangla enclaves' history to be archived

The problem of enclaves between India and Bangladesh might have persisted for more than six decades, but the realities of these “nowhere” people are hardly known elsewhere.

To that end, a group of concerned citizens has come forward to set up a research facility where these enclave's  issues will be studied and archived.
The enclaves—Chhitmahal in Bengali, which literally means land of dots like print on of cloth—are a reality of a different kind. Their residents belong to no nation, owe allegiance to no government and receive no state benefit.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina sign a historic land boundary agreement on Saturday, the problem of these enclaves' residents will come to a justified end.

However, their history will live on through the proposed research centre in the Poaturkuthi enclave near Cooch Behar in West Bengal. The centre will highlight the people's struggles and perspective to future researchers looking to address similar problems.

Being set up under the aegis of the Bharat Bangladesh Chhitmahal Samannay Committee (BBCSC), an NGO that coordinates with both the Indian and Bangladeshi governments for enclave exchange, the centre is currently accumulating documents and other material for its archive and library.

The BBCSC's Diptiman Sengupta said: “The centre will store and archive these enclaves' undiluted history. There will be reference material for several grassroot-level movements that tried to bring to light these enclaves' and their residents' crisis,” he said.

‘More awareness now’

Sengupta said the situation now is much better than when the BBCSC first started working with these people around two decades ago.

“No one believed there could be land masses that belong to either India or Bangladesh, but are in each other’s territory. Our first hurdle was to make the people concerned aware of the ground realities,” he said.

“In 2010, there was just one person researching on these enclaves. Now we have around 28,” he added.

Documentary film-maker Debanjan Sengupta faced a similar roadblock when looking for a financier for his film on these enclaves.

“Forget foreign producers, even those in Kolkata, Delhi or Mumbai are unaware of the situation! Many thought I was making it up,” he said.

Author Amar Mitra, who is currently working on a novel on life in the enclaves, had no idea they existed in the 21st Century.

“I came to know about enclaves only during a visit to a literary meet in north Bengal last year. I was amazed by these areas. I’ve since returned many times and spoken extensively with these people,” he said.

Diptiman pointed out that the research centre would aid people like Mitra and Debanjan. “For years, some people have tried to suppress the ground reality. We’re happy the governments have taken notice and decided to solve the crisis,” he said.

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