The celebrations and din over the signing of the Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh early this month have pushed out of focus a crucial aspect of the exchange of enclaves how many Indians in the enclaves in Bangladesh really want to go to India.
Highly placed sources in Dhaka said that only a tiny section of the settlers in the enclaves actually want to go to India. Several factors have contributed to such a mindset.
Contrary to popular belief, not all the 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, spread over four districts, are inhabited by people of Indian origin. In fact, according to one estimate, the sources said, settlers live in about half of these enclaves.
The Centre has given the Bengal government a package of Rs.3,008 crore for rehabilitating Indians in Bangladeshi enclaves about 35,000 wanting to come to West Bengal. The money is to be spent also for housing, roads, schools, hospitals and development schemes.
The Centre has acceded to the state government&’s request for sending five companies of Central forces for ensuring security of Indian citizens in enclaves in Bangladesh wishing to settle in India.
As per the LBA, Indian citizens who exercise the option of leaving the enclaves in Bangladesh and settle in India will have to give up all their movable property in the enclaves, like the Bangladeshi nationals living in the 51 enclaves within India.
Disturbing reports are reaching the state government about the activities of land mafia in Cooch Behar trying to grab the land of the people living in the enclaves in the district. According the sources in Dhaka, majority of the Indian citizens living in the enclaves in Bangladesh are unlikely to go to India since for the past few decades they have not only tried to mingle with the people of Bangladesh, but have also bought land and accumulated other immovable property there.
They are unwilling to part with their hard-earned possessions and embrace an uncertain future as Indian citizens in India. Their only concern is whether the authorities in Bangladesh will honour their commitment not to take away their immovable property once they exercise the option of staying back where they are and accept Bangladeshi citizenship.
Sources said Indian officials have discussed the issue with the Bangladesh government and they have reportedly got the assurance that if the people living in the enclaves can produce any documents even hand written ones relating to land they claim to have bought in Bangladesh, they will be allowed to keep their possessions intact.
Sources said these people have over the years been enjoying various facilities, including studying in schools and colleges and treatment in hospitals without disclosing their identity as residents in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh. In many cases they were denied the facilities once their identity was known. They hope such harassment will come to an end once they accept Bangladeshi citizenship and stay back in the enclaves which are now legitimate Bangladeshi land.