The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) served notices to Indian authorities on Tuesday over allegations that Bangladesh had denied basic amenities to people living in Indian enclaves being swapped with land pockets from the neighbouring country as part of a historic boundary agreement.
In its communication to the ministries of home and external affairs, the chief secretaries of Assam and West Bengal and the district magistrates of Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri, the commission said if the complaints were true, they amounted to violation of both human rights as well as the land swap deal.
The development came days after the two nations kicked off on August 1 the process of exchanging 162 landlocked islets, or enclaves, with more than 50,000 virtually stateless residents to mark the resolution of a complex border dispute that had lingered since Independence.
The NHRC issued a press release, stating that the Indian Enclaves People’s Committee and Kuchlibari Sangram Committee lodged complaints with it highlighting that Indians residing in the Indian enclaves with Bangladesh were being denied fundamental facilities. Many of them were not included in the census for land compensation and women were being captured and sexually exploited.
The members of these committees were people affected by the Land Boundary Agreement.
“The development is a victory for those who were once forced to leave Indian enclaves and for those Indian enclave dwellers who are being intimidated,” said Sadan Kumar Paul, adviser of Kuchlibari Sangram Committee.
The district magistrate of Cooch Behar, P Ulganathan, could not be contacted. As per the NHRC, the complaints stated that about 30,000 people, or most of the residents of the Bangladeshi enclaves in India and Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, were not counted in the census conducted in 2011 and 2015. The petitioners apprehend that these people will not receive the compensation due to them under the land swap deal.
Sources say the development could delay the exchange process.
Under the pact, each country will take over most of the enclaves on its territory and residents will have the right to stay where they are or move to the other side of the border.