The celebration of enclave dwellers on July 31, 2015, has given away to protests.
This year, as the midnight bell rang on July 31, hundreds of former enclave dwellers lit up oil lamps inside their homes and on the roads to protest administrative negligence.
“We have only got citizenship. Until a year ago, we thought citizenship would solve all our problems but there have been no added benefits. But the first year has left us disillusioned. We lit up oil lamps to symbolise the darkness we are living in,” said Joynal Abedin, a resident of the erstwhile enclave of Madhya Mashaldanga, within Dinhata police station limits, in Cooch Behar district.
Earlier during the day, the enclave dwellers had brought out a protest rally, while the district administration organised an event at Cooch Behar town to celebrate the anniversary.
Even those who migrated from Bangladesh opting for Indian citizenship are upset with the state of affairs. “We were better in Bangladesh, even though the land we lived in was an Indian enclave within Bangladesh and deprived of basic amenities. Here, we have landed in greater uncertainty,” said Osman Gani, who lives at the rehabilitation camp at Haldibari.
With the implementation of The Indo-Bangla Land Border Agreement last year, 14,864 residents of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India became Indian citizens, while 922 residents of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh migrated to India.
From Tuesday, the residents will put up scarecrows on their land with posters having ‘this is me’ written on them.
“The residents of erstwhile enclaves have been reduced to scarecrows. Papers of land records was one of our foremost demands but not a single person have got their land holdings recorded yet. What does a farmer have without land records?” said Diptiman Sengupta, the leader of the exenclave dwellers’ organisation, Citizens’ Rights Coordination Committee (CRCC).
Members of CRCC alleged that many locals had tried to get agriculture loans but failed because banks did not accept their application without land deeds. They are unable to avail benefits under the Indira Awas Yojna or government’s crop insurance schemes for the same reason.
“Roads, electricity, health centre, school, government grants and loans – we got nothing. We’ll continue to protest,” said Rousan Sarkar, a resident of Sitalkuchi.
This decision to continue with protests may spark off political tension at the erstwhile enclaves, as Bengal’s ruling party, Trinamool Congress, have decided to actively confront the CRCC’s movements while BJP has decided to support the movement.
“We stand by the former enclave dwellers’ demand that the district administration must publish a white paper detailing expenditure on projects. A representation from our party will meet the district magistrate in a day or two. In case the DM fails to give us satisfactory answer, we will join protests,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh told HT on Monday.
The district magistrate, P Ulganathan, could not be contacted. District Trinamool Congress leader and Dinhata MLA, Udayan Guha, alleged that the CRCC leadership was trying to vitiate the atmosphere.