Indian Enclaves Battered With Hostilities and Isolation

Forcible occupation is a common incident in enclaves. It occurs off and on. So, it is difficult to keep either any land property or the crops of the field under control.

Especially in my case, I can say, I was a permanent inhabitant of the chhitmahal, Kote-Bhajni. I had inherited 128 Bighas of land from my father. But, I could not enjoy the land property due to forceful occupation, robbery and plundering.

Once in a winter morning of 1979, one Mr. Ataur Hussain, a well to do landlord of nearby Bangladeshi village appeared before our door along with 14 to 15 Gunda (that is, ruffian or hooligan)s with traditional sharpen weapons and asked me to vacate the land immediately. Seeing this, some village people also came there to enjoy the game.

Fear always haunted our village people. We get afraid of going to Saptahik-haat (that is, weekly-market), especially the market of town areas which hold at a distance.

People living there threaten us in various ways and ask not to go there. But, even, if we go to market, they compel to pay various ‘taxes’ or subscriptions forcibly. Not only that, we never get actual price for the crops we sell and are compelled to sell them at a lower rate of price. Sometimes, they snatch our crops if we do not give them at their price, which they fix.

Apart from this, it is very impossible to keep crops standing in the field. Rubbing or stealing of crops often takes place at any time, whether at noon or at night. The looters come with firearms or ethnic sharpen weapons (like Dao, Hansuli, Kaachi, Hann, Bhojali et cetera).

The fact is that the Indian enclaves are but small ‘land-island’ and these enclaves are surrounded by Bangladesh country and the officials of Indian Government, Non-Government Organization (NGO)s, political, non-political leaders cannot come here easily of freely.

This is why,there is very little scope for the growth and development in the socio-economic spheres. As a result, generation after generation has plunged into the darkness of prosperity of any kind. In a word, we can say, these areas are kept quite isolated from the mainland.

So, how can the people of these (Indian enclaves) areas prosper in the socio-economic spheres? Astonishing fact is that the Road and Transport System has paralyzed, tottering condition of Drinking Water System, absent of Electrification System and Post & Telecommunication System and bad Sanitary System et cetera that have smashed the lifeline of the inhabitants of the Indian enclaves.

For these reasons, many compel to return to India to resettle permanently and the flow has been continuing (since 1963 to until today) time after time. Presently, there is no other alternative but do this.

But, yet we are not happy. We don’t receive any help from the Government of West Bengal and so many of us has left this place and has taken shelter to the tea-gardens of neighbouing North-Eastern Indian State, Assam and the Orissa, Jharkhand respectively …..”, Bamna Mardi of Kote-Bhajni Chhitmahal under Haldibari PS, who was driven out of his chhit for similar circumstances in 1980s.

“Chhitmahal” is commonly used to define ‘Enclave’. Here, Chhit means ‘a fragment’ and Mahal means ‘land’. Thus, it is called ” Chhitmahal (that is, ‘a fragment land’ or ‘a piece of land’). Geographically it is explained as ‘land-island’, but grammatically it is ‘separated from the mainland’.

Enclave is an execrable plot of land that has created a great excitement in the present political turmoil of the Asia continent in the world. The inhabitants of the Indian enclaves are in fact debarred from all sorts of constitutional and other citizens of the mainland enjoy administrative facilities as. So, they are often found oppressed, neglected and exploited. Both the constitutional and the administrative issues are fruitless to these people.

They have not even their ‘Ration Cards’. Astonishing fact is that since 1951, there is no ‘Census’ work has been done, whether general or special and as a result, the true figure of the population is not known. Although, presently, it is thought that it may be approximately one lakh. But, in the year, 1951, it population figure was about 01,200 or so.

Although, 80% (percent) belongs to ‘Muslim’ community and others 20% (percent) is consisting with Koch-Rajbongshi (as Scheduled Caste, that is, SC) and the Adibashi Santhal (specially Munda) clan (as Scheduled Tribe, that is, ST) community live in Indian enclaves.

There is no Post and Telegraph Communication system in these enclaves. 70% (percent) to 80% (percent) odd of houses have a ‘Radio’ or a battery-operated ‘Television’ set that catches programmes from Bangladesh, Nepal and obviously Indian channel (Doordarshan).

Even, the inhabitants of the Indian enclaves have neither any national identity nor any national security. There is neither Government offices nor Non-Government offices to deal with their problems, although, they are not stateless nomadic creatures.

The enclaves were small parts of Kamrup Kingdom, clears from the Census Report, 1951. According to that report, some of them were wasted from during Bhutanese, Pathan (that is, a race of Muslim community), who were inhabitant of the North-West Frontier Province) and Mughal (that is, also a race of Muslim community) invansion in the 17th and the 18th centuries, when various internal brawls cropped up in the royal family of ‘Coochbehar Estate’.

Indeed, enclave is a peculiar phenomena existing in the India-Bangladesh international boundary in the Cooch-Behar district of the Eastern Indian State, West Bengal (WB). Possibly, such phenomenon does not exist anywhere else in the globe. An enclave may be illustrated as an ‘area’ of one nation lying entirely within the territory of another nation without any physical contiguity with the parent company.

The most interesting fact is that some of the enclaves are situated inside another enclave (see sketch below).

Source : Border Security Force Of India (BSFI)

“Look, enclave ‘as independent state of exclaves of a neighbouring nation, which pierce the host country”. Not only that, these enclaves become suitable points or places for illegal infiltrations, human trafficking, smuggling, importation of contrabands and avoiding customs and excise duties, illegal religious fundamental activities, and so on.

Because of the position, it is impossible for any respective government or administration to rule or control these particular areas, which are fallen in these above enclaves. Because of this, these above enclaves become safe haven for the anti-socials, anti-nationals, criminals, hooligans and unlawful activities. It is fact that the breaches of the territorial limits by the inhabitants of enclaves are a common characteristic as the dwellers are reliant on the nation by which they are surrounded for their day-to-day wants. Even, these enclaves have high rate of offense resultantly the peace and harmonies in these areas are destabilized”, defined one of the writer-cum-observers of India.

Notwithstanding that and whatever may be the causes or reasons, at last, India and Bangladesh have agreed to initiate steps to facilitate exchange of enclaves. On 11th November, 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of India informed that after the discussion of 04th India Bangladesh Joint Boundary Working Group (IBJBWG), which was set up in December, 2000, at capital of India, New Delhi that had held in between 10th November, 2010 to 11th November, 2010 that an outcome had been come out to resolve the long pending disputed issues. Like un-demarcated international border between the two nations, including complicated matters – the territories in Adverse Possession and Enclaves. However, the said group met firstly on the said issue in July, 2001, and has completed 04-numbers of meetings so far. In this context, it can be mentioned here that in 11th January, 2010, Indian PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina Wazed had already agreed to solve each and every outstanding issues keeping on view the spirit of Land Boundary Agreement, 1974, and to convene IBJBWG to take further course of action frontward.

On 20th January, 2011, The Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh adopted a policy to do away the long-standing sufferings and harassments of the around 02 lakh numbers of people inhabited in the Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves. In this context, a joint meeting of the members of the administrative body of the above two nations was called in which the matters related to enclaves were discussed. After that a joint discussion, it was decided that the enclaves of the both the countries were included with the mainland of the two nations. In fact, both the above nations agreed to make an exchange their enclaves mutually after thinking over the endless distress of the natives of the both country’s enclaves. It is fact that the denizens of the enclaves of the two nations have immense problems, whose complexity knows no bound and to do away them, this discussion for exchanging and incorporating of the enclaves was adopted.

Not only that, the above two nations however agreed that the long standing problems as related above would be solved or be brought to an end if and when the ‘existence of the enclaves’ would be done away with completely. In other words, Bangladesh would be the ‘owner’ of the 111-numbers of the Indian enclaves, which are fallen into the Bangladesh territory, while India would be the owner of 51-numbers of the Bangladeshi enclaves, which have still lying within the Bangladeshi territory.

Nevertheless, in that case, the inhabitants of the both the enclaves of the two states would get an opportunity to choose with, when they would live or be citizen as per their will. And set the process in motion, the administrative officers of the both the countries would move from door-to-door to collect the exact figures of the residents of the enclaves of the two states. Apart from this, the ‘Teen Bigha Corridor’ would soon be open round-the-clock (that is, 24-hours a day) – for it’s’ inhabitants for their ‘free movement’ between the two Bangladeshi enclaves – Dahagram and Angarpota. Even, electricity system and the pure-drinking water system would be provided to the people of the enclaves of Dahagram and Angarpota. Although, much-awaited power network in Dahagram and Angarpota had been completed.

It is fact that the above two nations signed an agreement in the year, 1974 to solve the 04,096.70-kilometres of India Bangladesh International Border. However, in this context, Bangladesh ratified the accord right away, but the India refrained from doing the same. The Indian Government at last agreed to settle the international border disputes with Bangladesh during the India visit of the prime-minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed between 11th January, 2010 to 13th January, 2010. During the tour, Bangladesh gave transit facility to India to reach its 07th North East Indian States through Bangladesh, a demand India had been making since the 1970s.

“We talked about all the issues with a positive approach. The handover of enclaves of both the countries (which too arose before the birth of Bangladesh) will start soon”, emphasized the secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Abdus Sobhan Sikder at a joint press-conference after the two-day 11th home secretary-level talks between the two nations – India and Bangladesh at Sheraton hotel of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh on 20th January, 2011.

On the other hand, the Advocate Shahara Khatun, Home Minister, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh revealed, “Indeed, though, the two neighbours have boundary disputes since the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. Specially, the problems of the enclaves. There are also issues like adversely possessed lands in both the territories. That is, Bangladesh and India have kept each others territory in their possessions, which is termed as adverse possession of land, which is one of the reasons of international border disputes and clashes, including the construction of military ware obstacles within 150-yards (that is, 138-metres) of the above noted international borders”.

Kamaluddin Ahmed, Joint secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh led the delegation of Bangladesh, while joint secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (Northeastern Region), Shambhu Singh is heading the Indian delegation in the joint meetings.

References :

06. Rule of Jungle by Amar Roy Pradhan.

07. Statistical Account of Bengal by W. W. Hunter.

08. Association for Protection of Citizen’s Rights for Indian Chhitmahal Residents & Oustees (APCRICRO).

09. Indian Enclave Refugee Association (IERA).

10. Government of India Gazette – 1945 to 2010, (documents).

11. Census of India (1945 to 2001).

12. Tin Bigha Facts by Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.

13. Arindam Kumar Sen & Biswanath Das, the members of APCRICRO.