Two months after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee softened her stand on the exchange of 162 enclaves between India and Bangladesh, a parliamentarian from the neighbouring country Thursday held a public meeting in one of the Bangladeshi enclaves — known locally as Chitmahals — in West Bengal. This is for the first time ever that a Bangladeshi MP has visited any such enclave.
The MP, Nazmul Haque, said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sent him to take stock of the ground situation of the residents in the Chitmahals.
“I have been sent here to see the condition of the residents of the Bangladeshi enclaves. The Prime Minister has asked me to submit a report in the Parliament .The Bangladeshi government wants the enclave exchange treaty to be implemented soon,” Haque told The Indian Express over phone from Poaturkuthi Chitmahal — one of the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India.
Haque also sought cooperation from Mamata in implementing the enclave exchange treaty. He said that there had been several meetings between the representatives of both the countries and between the India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Bangladesh Prime Minister on the land boundary agreement and Teesta water sharing issues. “The new government in India has taken significant steps to improve the bilateral relationship. The Indian government is trying hard to get the enclave exchange treaties implemented. However, Chief Minister of Bengal too needs to cooperate since the enclaves are situated in that state,” he added.
Earlier in the day, addressing the public meeting at Poaturkuthi, the MP said, if possible, his country’s Parliament will make “budgetary allocations for development of the Bangladeshi enclaves”. He said a meeting between the representatives of both the countries would take place soon in Kolkata where the enclave and Teesta water sharing issues would be discussed.
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In 2011, a protocol was signed by the prime ministers of the two countries clearing the way for granting Indian citizenship to about 20,000 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (7,000 acres) in Indian territory and Bangladeshi citizenship to about 31,000 living in 111 Indian enclaves (about 17,000 acres) in that country’s territory. However, the treaty is yet to be implemented.
The Narendra Modi government has already said that it would agree unconditionally to the exchange of enclaves between the two countries.
In the past, several attempts were made by India and Bangladesh to foster better exchange among dwellers on both sides of the border. The Nehru-Noor treaty of 1958 (when Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan) and Indira-Mujib treaty (1974) were inked, but the issue could not be resolved owing to the opposition by various political parties.