Facebook boys of ‘stateless’ land watchful

The problem of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on the Indian side and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh is unique.

June 03, 2015 01:50 am | Updated April 03, 2016 03:13 am IST - Modhyo-moshaldanga enclave, Cooch Behar:

The ‘Facebook reporters’ of Bangladeshi enclaves in Cooch Behar on the Indo-Bangladesh border in north Bengal. — PHOTO: SUVOJIT BAGCHI

The ‘Facebook reporters’ of Bangladeshi enclaves in Cooch Behar on the Indo-Bangladesh border in north Bengal. — PHOTO: SUVOJIT BAGCHI

Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka, President Pranab Mukherjee has approved the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), but the boys on the border are apprehensive. The expected celebration on ground and simultaneous follow up on the social media — especially on the Facebook — was put on hold, as the boys of the ‘stateless’ enclaves, often referred as Facebook reporters, are yet to receive any official papers, such as a government notification.

Saddam Mia, Saddam Hossain, Alamgirr Sheikh, Rehman Ali or Rashidul islam of the enclave are the “Facebook reporters”. With zero access to legal education, health care or other basic facilities, these boys relentlessly promote their cause on Facebook. They post everything from the status of latest crop production to a death in the enclave, from an alert on a potential security threat to updates on flash flood in neighbouring Sikkim, from malarial outbreak to the late recent night soirees, following the passage of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill in Parliament, on Facebook.

They agree that such dogged “Facebooking” has helped them to advance their objective — the peaceful exchange of enclaves in India and Bangladesh.

But on Tuesday, when the President gave his assent to the much-awaited LBA, the boys of the enclave kept quiet.

“We are now expecting the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh to jointly announce the ‘liberation’ of enclaves during Mr. Modi’s visit to Dhaka, the party will start and we will post photos or stream videos on Facebook,” said Saddam Hossain of Modhya-moshaldanga, one of the bigger enclaves in Cooch Behar district on the Indo-Bangladesh border.

The problem of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on the Indian side and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh is unique. Generations have been living in tiny land patches for hundreds of years. But their houses, mostly walled and roofed with tin or asbestos inside the enclaves, are locked from all sides by the neighbouring country. So more than 14,000 Bangladesh residents are locked inside India, while nearly 38,000 Indians are locked in Bangladeshi territory, without any access to basic facilities such as access to health care or education and even denied the voting right.

Multi-level team

The boys and men of the enclaves — mostly in their teens or early twenties — have formed a multi-level “media sensitisation team” headed by a senior journalist in Kolkata.

While the journalist takes care of mostly the conventional media, in coordination with enclave exchange committee, the boys have formed their own team.

“There is one reporter in all of the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves on the Indian side,” said Saddam Mia. Mr. Mia, the informal editor of the social media team, fudged his address and parents’ identity to do a Master’s on the north Bengal campus of Rabindra Bharati University.

The architect of the enclave exchange movement on the Indian side is Diptiman Sengupta, however, outlined many landmark events, besides social media activism, that ensured ratification of LBA in the Indian Parliament.

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