BY NOVEMBER 30, the entire process pertaining to the physical exchange of residents living in the Indo-Bangladesh enclaves was to be completed. However, 11 families have chosen to stay back in Bangladesh, refusing to come to the camps at Cooch Behar district in Bengal.
While the district administration maintained it didn’t know the reason behind the decision, sources claimed inadequate facilities and issues related to the land they owned in Bangladesh made the residents change their mind.
According to the Union Ministry of External Affairs, following the signing of the Land Boundary Agreement between the two neighbours, while all 4,863 residents of Bangladeshi enclaves in India opted for Indian nationality, 989 people — among a total of 38,521 residents of erstwhile Indian enclaves in Bangladesh — had decided to cross over to India.
But out of these 989 people, only 920 had arrived at the three camps set up at Dinhata, Mekhliganj and Haldibari, as of November 30. According to residents of the camps, those who had not come were primarily residents of villages at Nazirganj and Daikatha.
A resident of Nazirganj village — a former Indian enclave in Bangladesh — said: “It is not easy to uproot your entire family. We faced problems because nothing was sure or secure in an enclave. I cannot move without either selling my land or at least receiving adequate compensation for my land. I have written to the high commission regarding the matter.”
Jay Prakash, a resident of Mekhliganj camp, added: “It is not a question of religion. Hindus and Muslims have stayed back. Most people have come, but those who have not, are worried about their land. I am also from Nazirganj village and there are people I know who did not want to leave their thriving businesses and come here, especially when they realised that at least for sometime, they won’t be cultivating their own land.”
Deeptiman Sengupta, convener of Citizen Rights Coordination Committee, said one of the main reasons for families deciding to not come to India was the land they owned in Bangladesh.
“Many residents are finding it difficult to sell their land. They were not allowed to sell or buy land till November 30… but even after that, the land revenue department didn’t start survey work. As a result, some land in the erstwhile enclave of Krishnapur in Tufanganj sub-division have already been illegally occupied,” he added.
“Many families have large chunks of land, some as large 20 bighas. These families don’t want to move to India and live in a small camp with no resources to their name. They are established cultivators in Bangladesh and would rather stay behind. The problem is that very little homework went into the actual process of physical exchange of enclave dwellers,” he alleged.
While the district administration maintained that issues pertaining to land ownership, in what is now Bangladeshi territory, must be solved by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Bangladesh government, officials could not comment on why people had chosen not come to the camps in India.
“A lot of work is being done. All families have been issued MGNREGA job cards and the children are going to school. Soon, we will begin giving them ration, so that they can cook their own meals. But regarding those who chose to not come, we can’t comment, as we don’t know what reasons they have given to the high commission for staying back,” said Cooch Behar District Magistrate P Ulganathan.