History was created on Thursday as 67 residents of erstwhile Indian enclaves in Bangladesh crossed over and became the first batch of people to legally do so since Independence following a historic boundary agreement between the two countries.
The residents came in two buses with five trucks carrying their belongings and a blue-white canopy was erected at the zero-point of the border, under which folk dance and songs were performed to welcome them.
“We have uprooted ourselves from Bangladesh to settle in India with a lot of hope,” said 83-year old Taraknath Burman, the oldest of the group. The youngest was Dasami Burman - named after the last day of Durga Puja -- who is less than a month old.
Those who came this afternoon lived in the enclaves of Lotamari and Gotamari located in the Lalmonihat district of Bangladesh.
“It’s a historic day. We will do everything to serve them,” said P Ulganathan, the Cooch Behar district magistrate.
A total of 987 enclave dwellers are supposed to cross over to India by November 30 as part of a pact to exchange 50,000 virtually stateless residents living in land pockets, culminating a complex border dispute that has remained unresolved for over half a century.
During the first month, the newcomers will be provided with cooked food and children would get special food like milk and eggs, official sources said.
After one month they will get essential commodities through ration system free of cost.
Arrangements were being made to provide them with banking and AADHAR card documents soon. After two years, permanent shelters will be arranged for them
(with agency inputs)