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'New found freedom' for 51,000 people as India, Bangladesh begin exchange of enclaves

It's a historic day for India and Bangladesh. Following a wait of over four decades, the two neighbours will on Friday midnight begin exchanging 162 adversely-held enclaves. This marks the start of implementation of the landmark Land Boundary Agreement.


'New found freedom' for 51,000 people as India, Bangladesh begin exchange of enclaves
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Kolkata/New Delhi: It's a historic day for India and Bangladesh.

Following a wait of over four decades, the two neighbours will on Friday midnight begin exchanging 162 adversely-held enclaves. This marks the start of implementation of the landmark Land Boundary Agreement (LBA).

The swapping also ends one of the world's most difficult border disputes that has kept thousands of people in stateless limbo for almost 70 years.

Some 50,000 residents along the border will light candles and celebrate their "new found freedom" at midnight today following a historic deal sealed between the two countries' prime ministers.

"The 68 candles mark our 68 years of endless pain since 1947 and the agonies and poverty we faced living in no-man's land," said Golam Mostafa, who lives in an Indian enclave in the Bangladesh district of Kurigram.

As part of the agreement, India will transfer 51 enclaves, comprising 7,110 acres, to Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, will hand over 111 enclaves, comprising around 17,160 acres, to New Delhi.

The Land Boundary Agreement was inked in 1974 and the enabling Protocol in September, 2011. The transfer of enclaves will be carried out in a phased manner over the next 11 months.

As per estimates, around 37,000 people are living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh, while 14,000 are staying in Bangladeshi enclaves in India.

India and Bangladesh have already completed an exercise in July to ascertain the views of the residents in the enclaves whether they would like to take Indian or Bangladeshi citizenship.

None living in Bangladeshi enclaves in India wants to shift to that country, as per a joint survey. However, an estimated 600 people want to migrate to India.

The Centre has already sanctioned a Rs 3,048 crore package for rehabilitation of the people affected by the exchange of enclaves under the LBA implementation.

Between July 31, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the entire process, including physical exchange of enclaves and land parcels in adverse possession along with boundary demarcation, is expected to be completed.

India and Bangladesh will print, sign at plenipotentiary level and exchange the strip maps of undemarcated sectors.

Both governments will facilitate "orderly, safe and secure passage" to the enclave dwellers along with their "personal belongings and movable property" to Bangladesh or India through proper "travel documents", according to a letter exchanged by the two countries.

The passage "will be arranged by the respective governments by November 30, 2015".

India and Bangladesh have also outlined the modalities of a complex process of settlement of immovable property. The dwellers, who are hoping to move from one enclave to another country as proper citizen for the first time since Independence, will have to provide "details of the records and specifications of immovable property" to the local district administration.

The details will be posted in the public domain by the administrations and the governments will "facilitate remittance of sales proceeds" of the property.

LBA was ratified by the Indian Parliament in May this year.

(With PTI inputs)

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