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Friday, July 31, 2015, Shraban 16, 1422 BS, Shawal 14, 1436 Hijr

Land swap ends this midnight
Bangladesh, India give enclave residents a state
Published :Friday, 31 July, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 387
Saleem Samad
There will be no formal celebration but candles and lamps will be lit by dwellers of both Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves on Friday night, delighted over having their citizenships ending almost 70 years of wait.
The historic swap of 162 tiny enclaves espoused in each other's territory will commence at one minute past Friday midnight.
From August 1, the enclaves will formally cease to exist, with their residents having their statehood decades after the British ruled India was partitioned in 1947 giving birth to India and Pakistan, said a senior official of Bangladesh Home Ministry said.
On that day will end one of the world's most peculiar border disputes, which has kept thousands of enclave people stateless for almost 70 years.
On the swap day, a dozen of Deputy Commissioners (DC's) from Bangladesh and their Indian counterpart District Magistrates (DM's) will formally take over the enclaves heralding sovereignty of the territories. There will be no official celebration in Bangladesh and India, officials handling the transfer of the enclaves have said.
However, the 51,500 enclave dwellers will light candles and lamps to mark their freedom. As the deadline draws near, fanfare has swept the enclaves, with villagers holding feasts, rehearsing their new national anthem and preparing for traditional games.
According to a joint Indo-Bangladesh census, there are 111 Bangladeshi enclaves in India that houses 37,369 people while 14,215 people have been residing in 51 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh.
The exchange of the enclaves has been formalised in a historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) was sealed last month, 40 years after it had been reached between then Prime Minister Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi.
Current Indian Prime Minister Narenbdra Modi, who visited Dhaka in June to authenticate the LBA with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, compared the land swap deal to the "dismantling of the Berlin Wall". His Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina said "a humanitarian issue has come to a peaceful end."
Weeks earlier, both Indian upper and lower parliaments unanimously ratified the LBA of 1974 with Bangladesh and the related 2011 Protocol.
Until now, the stateless enclave residents suffered from not having basic government services, healthcare and no access to schools. They also faced restrictions on movement as they did not possess travel documents, and they were not allowed to own property or vote in elections.
The enclave dwellers gave their choices for citizenship (of Bangladesh or India) this month during a joint survey during July 1-16.
 "The overwhelming majority of people living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh opted for Bangladeshi citizenship," Habibur Rahman, coordinator of the Bangladesh survey team.
An overwhelming majority people in the 111 enclaves in Bangladesh have opted to for Indian nationalities.
Bangladesh authority is tight lipped about the actual number of people who had submitted their choice of citizenship.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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