On paper, India will transfer 111 enclaves to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh will transfer 51 enclaves to India. But on the ground, not a single enclave dweller on the Indian side has expressed willingness to go to Bangladesh so far.
The joint enumeration process began on July 6, and field officials have completed 80 per cent of the survey in some places. With the deadline for exchange of enclaves drawing near (July 31), the survey has to be completed by July 16.
Cooch Behar District Magistrate P Ulaganathan said 75 teams, comprising two members each — one Indian and one Bangladeshi — have been assigned the responsibility of the field survey. “Of the 75 teams, 25 are working in the Bangladeshi enclaves which will come to India while 50 are working in the Indian enclaves which will go to Bangladesh. There is one supervisor for every five teams,” he said.
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“Nobody is willing to go to Bangladesh so far,” said Uttam Sarkar, a land record department official and one of the supervisors.
“We are in the process of compiling the data at the moment. It will be possible to give the exact number of people who will migrate only after July 16,” maintained Ulaganathan.
On the findings from across the border, officials said about 100 families have expressed willingness to come to India so far.
Field officials are organising camps in the enclaves where the residents are asked to register themselves.
“We are asking them basic questions like their names, age, parents’ names, current citizenship and the citizenship they wish to acquire with effect from August 1, 2015,” said Deepak Basak, one of the officials at Poaturkuthi enclave — the largest enclave here with 483 families.
The 11th column of the prescribed form has provision for a photograph of those who want to go to Bangladesh. But there have been no takers yet.
The survey teams are also visiting the houses of the elderly or physically challenged, who are unable to walk to the camps. “It is not a clerical exercise like scrutinising a voters’ list. It has become a very emotional process and we have to be compassionate with them,” said an official.
There is visible enthusiasm among the enclave residents. Afan Ullah Mia, a resident, said it would be an end to a “life of lies”. “We got our four sons and daughter married on the basis of false information that we are Indians. Even their engagements had to be done at an acquaintance’s place so that nobody knew the truth,” he said. “My eldest son’s father-in-law has never come to our house because we live in an enclave,” he added.
Sarifa Banu, his daughter-in-law, said she was a resident of Nandina village of Cooch Behar district. “I had studied till Class XII and had my voters’ card, Aadhar card and OBC certificate. It took some time me to realise that I was married into a family where nobody even had a ration card,” she said.
Md Akkel Ali Mia, a resident of Karala, recalled how he was once put behind bars for venturing out of the enclave without an identity card. “I used to hardly leave this place. One day, I went to a nearby village to attend a wedding ceremony. A BSF official asked me for proof of identity. When I could not produce any document, I was jailed for six months. I was later deported to Bangladesh,” he said.
Meanwhile, an area of about 1.5 acres has been earmarked in Dinhata village for those who will make the move to India. “Since it will take time to construct so many houses, they will be accommodated in a defunct cold storage and a state-owned godown here,” said a senior official.
“A meeting will be held on July 23, when the next course of action will be decided,” said Ulaganathan, adding that the process of issuing voters’ cards and Aadhar cards would after August 1.