More than four years after the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, a report released by civil rights organisations on Tuesday on the situation in erstwhile enclaves states that “protest and resistance have become an essential part of their survival in India”.
Former Supreme Court Judge Ashok Ganguly, who released the report on the International Day of Human Rights, said, for the citizens of erstwhile Indian enclaves who came from Bangladesh it is a breach of contract between the two countries.
“They are genuine Indian citizens. In this case when they are asked to move from the place where they were settled four years ago, it is a breach of the contract and violation of their human rights,” Mr. Ganguly said.
He was referring to the condition of over 900 people living in three enclave settlement camps in Dinhata, Halbibari and Mekhiliganj in Cooch Behar district who have now been asked to move into flats constructed by the State government.
The report, compiled by rights organisation Masum, researcher Prachi Lohia and Forum Asia, said that for seven decades as residents of the enclaves they were placed outside this structure. After the LBA and exchange of enclaves, “they appear to be new faces in the theatre and their lives still appear to be far removed from the mainstream”.
“India and Bangladesh have claimed spaces that have been abandoned for over seven decades. However, the question remains who inhabits these spaces, the nation or its citizens,” Ms. Lohia said.
Kirity Roy of Masum, while referring to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill passed in Parliament, said the country should look at the plight of its newest citizens who got rights after seven decades of stateless existence.
“The condition of the people is far from what they had imagined. They are yet to get land records and nothing has been done for providing them employment,” he said.
The report also recommended a constructive dialogue between the representatives of the three settlement camps of Dinhata, Halbibari and Mekhiliganj on the problems related to their rehabilitation.
“A comprehensive survey should be undertaken to identify and assimilate the people whose names have been left out of the headcount previously, and all the benefits of being a citizen in India should be extended to them,” one recommendation stated. Mr. Roy said the report “Erstwhile enclaves in India: A post–LBA analysis” also contained the names of 38 persons who were not in the headcount of 2015 on the basis of which people were accorded citizenship.