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Enclave dwellers demand plots

They plan to stage demonstrations in front of Cooch Behar district magistrate’s office on 26 Dec.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

After refusing to accept flats built for them by the state government, enclave dwellers in all the three settlement camps in Cooch Behar district are determined to continue their fight against the Indian government for their legitimate claims.

They also plan to stage demonstrations in front of the office of the Cooch Behar district magistrate on 26 November, demanding that the administration show the exact rehabilitation package for them, which was planned during execution of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh.

All residents in the three settlement camps at Haldibari, Mekhliganj and Dinhata have been demanding a small house on a plot of land measuring three kathas instead of flats.

Having failed to get a plot of land in India, a few of them have apparently started thinking if they can go back to their original plots of land, which they left behind and which were finally incorporated into Bangladesh during the LBA execution.

Trouble broke out after chief minister Mamata Banerjee handed over keys of the newly-constructed flats to a few beneficiaries at the Haldibari Enclave Settlement Camp, during an official programme organised by the district administration at Rash Mela when she visited Cooch Behar town on 18 November.

The remaining dwellers, however, refused to accept the keys from MLAs and Trinamul Congress leaders at the Haldibari Block Development Office on 19 November.

“People at the Haldibari Enclave Settlement Camp also staged a demonstration yesterday, demanding a small house on a plot of land, financial assistance and employment,” a source said.

While 455 people had come to Cooch Behar after the enclave exchange programme, there are 489 residents in the camps presently, including small children.

“A total of 10 boys passed the BA exams from the Haldibari camp in the last two years,” the sources said.

“We came to the mainland of our country with high hopes by giving up all our belongings in the enclaves in the Bangladesh side, but what did we get here? We came to the camp on 22 November 2015. After completion of four years, we do not have any plot of land of our own. We had demanded a plot of land measuring three kathas and a simple house with tin roof, financial assistance and scope for employment,” said Joy Prakash Roy, a former resident of the Nazirganj enclave in Panchagarh district of Bangladesh.

“We do not want flats. We do not have the habit of living in such accommodations. We will continue our fight for a plot of land from the state government,” said Mr Roy, who left Nazirganj after giving up a house and four bighas of farmland.

Osman Gani, who had come to the Dinhata Enclave Settlement Camp on 22 November 2015, from the Chhoto Gadaljhola enclave under Kurigram district of Bangladesh, said: “No one listened to us. We do not have freedom of speech here. It is really unfortunate for us. We left our original land and gave up all of our belongings and came here on 22 November 2015 to live freely as Indian citizens. We need a plot of land. Police here have registered several cases against us unnecessarily. There is no liberty here. Not hearing our pleas, they started constructing flats, though we had served a representation to the then district magistrate P Ulganathan, demanding plots of land instead.”

He said they have appealed to the Dinhata SDO through the Right to Information Act, to know the exact rehabilitation package for them.

“We plan to stage a demonstration again in front of the Cooch Behar DM office on 26 November, demanding that the administration should let us know what was the exact rehabilitation package for us,” Mr Gani said, adding, “The then Assistant High Commissioner, posted in Rajshahi, had informed us that a total rehabilitation package was readied comprising homestead and farm land and other facilities.”