Thousands celebrate historic India-Bangladesh border pact

2015-06-07 12:38
(Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

(Munir Uz Zaman, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Dhaka - Thousands living near the Bangladesh-India border celebrated on Sunday an historic agreement that will allow them to choose their nationality after decades of stateless limbo.

Poor villagers living in border enclaves waved Bangladeshi flags, held street parades and broke down in tears after Saturday's ratification of the deal covering parts of the border along India's eastern flank.

"I have never dreamt that I would live to see myself become a citizen of any country," said Moinul Haq, who lives in one of the Indian enclaves inside Bangladeshi territory.

"We have finally tasted freedom after 68 years," he said by phone, bursting into tears as he joined a "victory procession" of more than 1 000 members of his Boshpechai-Bhitokuti enclave.

Similar celebrations were held in other enclaves, said Golam Mostofa, general secretary of an association of enclaves.

"All of us are now Bangladeshi citizens. Our pains and decades of frustrations are over. We're now liberated and can now claim citizenship rights. The enclaves will now have schools, clinics and government offices," Mostofa said.

Deepen relations

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the pact with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina in a ceremony on Saturday, the highlight of his two-day visit to India's closest ally.

An agreement on the ownership of the 162 enclaves, essentially islands of land located in each other's country, had proved elusive for decades. They resulted from complex ownership arrangements made centuries ago by local princes.

Around 50,000 people are thought to live in the "islands" and lack many basic services such as schools, clinics and utilities because they are cut off from their national governments.

Under the agreement each country will assume sovereignty over all enclaves in its territory.

Residents will be allowed either to stay put or to move across the border. The enclaves will effectively cease to exist.

Bangladesh actually endorsed the deal in 1974 but it was only last month that India's parliament gave its approval, paving the way for Saturday's joint ratification ceremony.

Modi and Hasina signed a series of other agreements on Saturday, including building much-needed power plants in Bangladesh, while India announced a $2bn line of credit to Bangladesh to deepen relations.

Modi was expected later Sunday to meet embattled opposition leader Khaleda Zia before wrapping up his visit, his first to Bangladesh since being elected in May last year.

Indian officials have played down the idea of Modi mediating in the long dispute between Hasina and Zia, although he might urge Zia to ensure an end to anti-government attacks.

Scores of people have been killed in firebomb attacks on vehicles since Zia called a transport blockade at the start of the year in a bid to topple Hasina.

India refrained from criticising Hasina's re-election in January 2014 in a contest that was boycotted by the opposition and dismissed as "not credible" by Western nations.

Read more on:    india  |  bangladesh

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.