‘The first thing I packed was my red Benarasi wedding sari’
Naresh Chandra Burman (38 Cooch Behar): West Bengal Moved from former India enclave in Rangpur, Bangladesh
For Naresh Chandra Burman, Rangpur was always home. It was at an Indian enclave in the north Bangladeshi town where Burman was born, educated, and made a living as a doctor. But in November, the 38-year-old gave it all up and became an Indian citizen under the Land Boundary Agreement ratified earlier this year.
The historic deal resulted in an exchange of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with Bangladesh enclaves in India, and a transfer of populations. As Burman prepared for the uncertain journey from Bangladesh to Dinhata in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, he hastily packed his belongings into cartons provided by the government.
‘We have new clothes now… haven’t been able to get them stitched’
Mohammed Aziz, 90; Rashida, 70; Hafiza, 27 Poonch Returned to ancestral village in J&K from PoK illegally
At a time of much confusion, Mohammed Aziz and his father Maukam Din set out on a 660-km journey that would take him 66 years to undo. Just before Partition, the two left village Salwa in Poonch, near the border, to visit Aziz’s two married sisters living in Rawalakot. The war that followed made it impossible for them to return. Din died in 1948 there, his daughters in 1976. In 2013, eight years after the opening of the Poonch-Rawalakot bus route, Aziz came back to Salwa for the first time since he left.
Last month, now 90 and desperate to come back to his ancestral home, as well as worried about what would happen to his wife and daughter when he died, Aziz took a 9,000-km route via Islamabad, Bangkok, Nepal and Delhi (by road and air), along with Rashida and Hafiza, to reach Salwa. After a few days spent in jail for illegal entry, the three were released on bail.
‘Blankets have been saviours, Bible strength’
Simon Ashraf, 52: Delhi Refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan
Hidden behind posters and banners, a blue tarpaulin sheet tied to a nearby fence provides a semblance of shelter to a family of six Afghan refugees outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in South Delhi’s Vasant Vihar. For the past four months, this has been their home. “We need a decision on our case,” says 52-year-old Simon Ashraf, an economics teacher from Kabul speaking in broken English, with the help of his daughter Morsal, 16.
With Afghanistan continuing to be a battle zone, he adds, “We always felt there was danger to our lives. Embassies were being attacked, houses blown apart. I didn’t want my children to grow up there.”Ashraf has three other children besides Morsal — all boys, aged 22, 21 and 13. The youngest don’t go to school here but have been taking “private classes”.