Standing on the threshold of history each one of the 4,000 odd residents of Mashaldanga enclave in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal is thrilled, excited and full of hope.
In less than 12 hours – at the stroke of midnight on Friday – they are going to have a homeland after a 'stateless' existence of 68 years.
They are among the 14,856 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside Indian territory and all of whom will get a homeland. In fact, none of them have opted for the citizenship of Bangladesh. On the other side of the border, 979 of the 37,369 living in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh have applied for Indian citizenship so far.
The tiny pockets of land that exist as enclaves in each other's territories will merge into the respective countries too, following the historic landmark land boundary agreement signed and ratified earlier this year.
However, on the Indian side of the border the celebrations are tempered with some apprehensions too.
The uneasiness is about their prospective new neighbours – residents of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh who have applied for Indian citizenship and want to relocate to India. They apprehend criminals from Bangladesh will sneak into India, taking advantage of the enclave and population exchange.
"We have definite information that at least 16 persons, among the 979 who have applied for relocating to India, have criminal cases against them in Bangladesh. Four of the applicants are hardcore Jamaat-e-Islami members," Diptiman Sengupta, chief coordinator of Bharat-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee, told HT while supervising the final preparations for Friday's nightlong celebration.
The villagers, and even politicians, however, alleged that everything is not fair about the numbers being quoted.
"Many games are being played in Bangladesh to manipulate the list of people who intend to cross over to India with an Indian citizenship," said Alamgir Hossain, 18, who studied at Harakumari High School at Nazirhat gram panchayat of Dinhata II block with help of fake resident-ship certificates.
"Of the 270 persons, who want to come to India from the Indian enclave of Dasiar Char in Bangladesh, many have known links with various smuggling rackets," his friend Joynal Abedin told HT.
The likes of Hossain and Abedin are happy that they would not need fake certificates any more to study in Indian schools, and that the villagers would finally be entitled to all government schemes in India.
They hope 'merger' with India will also help fill vital infrastructure gaps. They expect their village to get electricity connections and would no longer have to 'trespass' into India to charge their mobile phones. They would also get someone to address their grievances.
For those who will come to India from Bangladesh, the resettlement programme is going to take some time to materialise. And the uneasiness remains.
While Sengupta said they would take up the issue of Bangladeshi criminals' attempt to enter India with the Cooch Behar district administration, sub-divisional officer of Dinhata, Krishnabha Bose, told HT that authorities in India would act on the basis of the list of applicants prepared by the Bangladesh government.
Read: Bangladesh, India in historic land swap after nearly 4 decades