West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee Tuesday backed the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh but interlaced it with demands of a rehabilitation package from the centre to handle people coming in to Bengal as a result of the exchange. There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with a total population of 37,369 and there are 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India with a population of 14,215.
While the Bangladeshi enclaves in India are located in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal, the Indian enclaves in Bangaldesh are spread across four districts Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Panchagarh.
“We are in favour of exchanging enclaves with Bangladesh. If the problem is resolved, it will be inscribed in golden letters in the diplomatic relations between the two countries. We want a rehab package because many people would come (to Bengal) from Bangladesh,” she said while addressing a meeting on Thursday, about 500 meters away from Karala enclave.
“We need to construct roads, schools, houses for them and provide them with food and develop infrastructure. For this, the chief secretary has prepared a report,” said Mamata.
Banerjee’s claim was contested by assistant secretary of Indo-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee, Diptiman Sengupta, who said hardly 1% of exchange dwellers would be displaced by the process.
The state government’s nod has been garnered mixed reactions from dwellers of Bangladesh enclaves.
Mohammed Jairul Mia, 42, of Karala said, “Since last 68 years the people in enclaves are living pathetic life with no social facilities, roads, electricity. Now we are treated like criminals and our lives are dependent on good gestures of Indian villagers,” adding that the enclave dwellers have no connection whatsoever with Bangladesh.
“We are Indians and do not agree with our official status as Bangladeshis. We were born here and want to die here,” said Abul Hussain, 65, an Indian national from Karala enclave.