Tri-colour raised; candles, torches lit as 51 enclaves join India
The tri-colour was hoisted, the national anthem sung and crackers burst as over 14,000 residents of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves became Indians citizens at the stroke of midnight Friday/Saturday, ending their 68 years of stateless existence.
With the two neighbours exchanging enclaves in the midnight hour, another 37,000 people Aresiding in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, became Bangladeshi citizens.
Torches and candles were lit, people came out of their houses, burst crackers and hugged each other as part of the celebrations with their eyes shining bright with hope.
Their facial expressions showed ecstasy after decades of isolation and deprivation during which they were denied even the basic civic amenities.
History was written as India gave away to Bangladesh 17,160 acres, covering the 111 enclaves and in return received 7,110 acres comprising 51 enclaves.
As the clock struck 12, the Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-ordination Committee (BBEECC) - an organisation that fought for the rights of the enclave dwellers - celebrated the occasion in Mosaldanga enclave of West Bengal's Cooch Behar district.
Euphoria took over, as the new Indian citizens saluted the tri-colour as it was raised on a makeshift stage and sang in chorus the Jana Gana Mana national anthem. Sixty-eight torches were held aloft, 68 candles lit, and 68 balloons went into the sky, marking the years the enclave dwellers have remained stateless. The darkness of the night was dispelled by fireworks, with the old and the young, octogenarian grandmothers to kids all soaked in the festivities.
The preparations for the celebrations had started from the morning. Arches with late former president A.P.J Kalam's dictum of 'Dream is not that which you see while sleeping it is something that does not let you sleep' adorned the area. A two-hour documentary brought out the hardships of the enclave dwellers all these years and their marathon struggle for citizenship.
The district administration organised more solemn functions in all the 51 enclaves at 9 am on Saturday. The national flag was raised and people lent their voices to singing the national anthem. Immediately after the flag hositing, the tri-colour was flown at half-mast in view of the national mourning due to Kalam's death.
The main programme was held at Poatarkuti enclave, where district magistrate P. Ulagnathan and police superintendent Rajesh Kumar Yadav participated.
"We welcome all of you as Indian citizens. We will try to ensure all the services for you. We could not hold big celebrations this time, in view of our former president's death," said the district magistrate.
Many of the dwellers raised the tri-colour at their small residences and shanties.
The 111 Indian enclaves are located in the Bangladesh districts of Lalmonirhat (59), Panchagarh (36), Kurigram 12 and Nilphamari (4) while all the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves are situated in Cooch Behar district.
The swapping is in pursuance of the inking and exchange of documents of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) on June 6 in Dhaka in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina.
The LBA was first inked in 1974 by then Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Other steps on implementing the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol are underway in accordance with agreed modalities between the Indian and Bangladeshi governments, it said.
"I am very happy. From today, I am an Indian,' said 12 year old Raju Barman, summing up the mood, as one of the most complicated and confusing border disputes in the world came to an end.
It was truly a new dawn at the enclaves. - IANS