37,000 people wake up to a new dawn

Updated - November 17, 2021 11:07 am IST

Published - August 02, 2015 02:36 am IST - DHAKA:

A woman lights candles in celebration at the Kurigram enclave inBangladesh, on Friday night.

A woman lights candles in celebration at the Kurigram enclave inBangladesh, on Friday night.

As the sun rose on August 1, some 37,000 people of 111 former Indian enclaves woke up to a new dawn as Bangladeshi citizens after 68 years of statelessness. For the first time, the Bangladeshi national flag was hoisted in these enclaves in the country’s northern Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Kurigram districts. The national anthem was sung to welcome the new beginning.

In line with the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, these enclaves spanning 17,160 acres of land were added to the Bangladeshi territory at a minute past midnight. Similarly, 51 Bangladesh enclaves measuring 7,110 acres became Indian territory. Bangladeshi enclaves had 14,000 residents while the Indian enclaves had been home to 37,000.

Throughout Saturday, the “new Bangladeshis” celebrated by singing the national anthem, releasing balloons in the air and by organising games, dramas and other cultural events.With the historic land swap, nearly 50,000 people of the enclaves have been able to get rid of the tag of nowhere people. They were denied access to basic facilities such as schools, health centres, electricity and even the judiciary. They were even deprived of job opportunities.

Reports said Bangladeshi flags fluttered over every house, each illuminated with 68 earthen lamps to symbolise the end of 68 years of neglect and deprivation.

The genesis of the enclaves goes back to 1947 with the hurried Partition of British India. In 1974, following Bangladesh’s Independence from Pakistan, the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, and her Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, signed an agreement to settle the vexed issue. To operationalise the agreement, a protocol was signed in 2011. On May 7, after the Indian Parliament ratified the agreement, the decks were cleared for the exchange of enclaves.

On June 6, 2015, India and Bangladesh exchanged the instruments of ratification of the LBA and Protocol, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Dhaka.

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