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India, Bangladesh officials meet over disputed enclave

IANS | Agartala |

India and Bangladesh officials on Thursday began a two-day meeting to resolve differences over southern Tripura’s Muhurichar- the lone disputed enclave between the two neighbours.
The fate of Muhurichar had remained undecided even though the two neighbours swapped 161 enclaves in July last year.
An official of the Tripura government’s Revenue Department said the officials of the two countries held a meeting at Majumder Haat on Thursday in Bangladesh, opposite southern Tripura’s sub-divisional town Belonia.
The final meeting would be held in Dhaka on Friday to resolve the dispute over Muhurichar enclave, he said.
The official said the Indian delegation was led by External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary (Border Management) Sripriya Ranganathan, while the Bangladesh side was headed by Additional Secretary (Political) of the Home Affairs Ministry of that country Abu Hena Mohammad Rahamatul Muneem.
“Ranganathan held a meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar in Agartala on Wednesday and discussed about the Muhurichar enclave,” the official said but refused to divulge anything about the outcome of the meeting.
Tripura’s Revenue, PWD and Health Minister Badal Choudhury said: “Decades before creation of Bangladesh in 1971, around 60 Indian farmers have been cultivating in the 63-acre Muhurichar enclave area.”
“The India-Bangladesh Joint Boundary Working Group meeting held in Dhaka last year had decided that the two countries would once again conduct joint survey in the 63-acre Muhurichar area to resolve the deadlock,” he said.
As part of the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 and its 2011 Protocol, India gave away to Bangladesh 110 of the 111 enclaves and received 51 enclaves in return on July 31 midnight last year, but the talks over Muhurichar had remained inconclusive.
“There is no problem over other enclaves. But as the Survey of India, along with its Bangladeshi counterpart, demarcated Muhurichar without any consultation and contact with the Tripura government, the enclave has remained undecided so far,” Choudhury added.
Around 60 Indian farmers have been cultivating in Muhurichar area for several decades even before creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Joint Secretary Ranganathan, in a letter earlier this year, had assured the Tripura Chief Secretary that “the MEA would not take any steps that are at variance with the provision contained in the LBA 1974 and 2011 Protocol”.
The Tripura Minister said: “Of the 63-acre Muhurichar area, we have no objection in giving some portion of land to Bangladesh after ensuring a perfect demarcation of the areas. There are three separate cremation grounds of three religious communities in the Muhurichar area for several decades.”
“The real tussle between India and the then East Pakistan over Muhurichar area started since early 1965. For many years, soldiers of the then East Pakistan and subsequently Bangladeshi border guards occasionally fired on the Indian side, killing and injuring many,” said the 67-years-old Left leader, who hails from this area.
According to the officials of South Tripura district administration, a proposal has been submitted to the union government to provide compensation to the affected Indian farmers, who had been farming in the area for many tears.
After the 517-year rule by 184 kings, the erstwhile Princely State of Tripura merged with the Indian union on October 15, 1949.
Since the partition of India in 1947, the Muhuri river along Muhurichar was considered a natural boundary between the two nations.
Over 84 per cent of Tripura’s total border (856 km) is international border.