Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-In less than 10 hours – at the stroke of midnight on Friday – Bangladesh and India will make history by exchanging 162 enclaves.
Of the enclaves, 51 are in India while 111 in Bangladesh.
This swapping will put an end to more than four decades of wait for nearly 52,000 people who were in ‘stateless’ limbo for 68 years.
The exchange will also mark the start of implementation of the landmark land boundary agreement (LBA) between Bangladesh and India.
The Land Boundary Agreement was signed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit in June.
For the people of the enclaves, Friday midnight is a suspicious moment as they are going to have a homeland after a ‘stateless’ existence of 68 years.
Standing on the threshold of history, all the residents of the adversely possessed enclaves are thrilled, excited and full of hope.
Children and youth in the enclaves were seen running across vast fields with the national flags – something they have longed to make their own.
On Friday night, they will hoist the flag for the first time, ‘rightfully’.
“This is nothing less than our own ‘Independence Day’,” 26-year-old Altaf Biswas told the Hindustan Times.
On the other hand, Indian media termed the situation as one of the biggest boosts to the bilateral relationship since the Ganga water sharing treaty at Farakka signed in 1996.
As part of the celebration, some 52,000 residents along the border will light candles and celebrate their “new found freedom” at midnight.
“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,” Golam Mostafa, who lives in an Indian enclave in the Bangladesh district of Kurigram, told the media.
By the implementation of the LBA, the inhabitants of enclaves will get their rights for some facilities such as electricity, education, road connectivity and healthcare from which they have been deprived for long 68 years.
So, naturally, the enclaves turned into a festive and buoyant mood with numerous events planned for midnight.
As a part of the process of implementation of the historic Land Boundary Agreement of 1974, signed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indira Gandhi and its subsequent 2011 Protocol, the enclaves will be exchange, said a press statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangladesh.
Fifty-one Bangladesh enclaves in India would become Indian territory and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh would become Bangladesh territory with effect from the July 31 midnight.
The respective district administrations of both the countries will hoist their respective national flags in the enclaves in the morning of August 1, it added.
Transfer of territorial jurisdiction of adversely possessed lands would also take effect from 31 July 2015 midnight.
Gazette notifications pertaining to territory would be issued by both the neighbouring governments.
The residents, except for those who opted for moving to India, of Indian enclaves becoming Bangladesh territory would be given citizenship of Bangladesh.
Similarly, residents of Bangladesh enclaves becoming Indian territory would be given Indian citizenship.
The movement of people would take place between November 1 to 30 in 2015.
Both the governments would ensure safe, orderly and secure passage for the movement to the mainland.
The High Commissioners of the two countries on Thursday signed 30 boundary strip maps in Dhaka.
Between July 31 in 2015 and June 30 in 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 un-demarcated sectors.
LBA was ratified by Indian Parliament in May.