Lifestyle change, lack of documents plague erstwhile enclave dwellers five years after LBA

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There is a need to help them to settle down to a new life style, says NHRC special rapporteur

A report by the special rapporteur of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the erstwhile enclave dwellers had referred to a “definite change in the life style” of the families who preferred to leave their villages located deep in Bangladeshi territory but retain their Indian nationality. In his report, B.B. Mishra of the NHRC East Zone in November 2019, had suggested employment for them most likely in the nearby tea gardens.

“The 200 families who preferred to leave their villages but retain Indian nationality are being rehabilitated in pucca dwelling houses. Earlier they used to keep cows, goats and duck, catch fish and grow vegetables in the backyard for which there is no provision now. There has to be definite change in lifestyle. There is a need to help them to settle down to a new life style,” the report says.

On Wednesday, thousands of erstwhile enclave dwellers held protests for hours outside the office of the district Magistrate Cooch Behar under the banner Amra Chitmahalbasi (We the residents of enclaves). Kirity Roy, well-known social activist and secretary of Masum, said the report clearly stresses on the importance of land deeds and alternative opportunities to which the administration has not given much though in the past five years

“Even after five and half years of the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, many of our crucial demands remain unfulfilled including our right to citizenship, land ownership and opportunities for employment,” Nur Nabi, president of the Amra Chitmahalbasi, said.

The representatives of the Cooch Behar district administration assured the protesters that their demands for land deeds and including the erstwhile enclave dwellers in State-run welfare schemes will be implemented within the next few months.

More than five and half years ago — on July 31, 2015 — the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh paved the way for the resolution of the seven decades long problem of enclaves. About 14,854 residents living in 51 Bangladesh enclaves deep in the territory of India became Indian nationals and another 922 persons (nearly 200 families) came from Indian enclaves in Bangladesh to the Coochbehar district.

LBA in conflict with CAA

Mr. Roy also pointed out that the Land Border Agreement implemented in 2015 is in conflict with the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in 2019 and thus the residents of enclaves need assurance of citizenship. Mr. Roy argued that the CAA provides citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Parsi and Christian foreigners who have migrated from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to India up to December 31, 2014, on account of the persecution faced by them due to their religion, whereas the LBA provides citizenship to everyone residing in the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves irrespective of their religion.

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