Bangladesh boundary bill gives hope to enclave dwellers

Kolkata, Dec 19 : Despite West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's opposition, organisations upholding the rights of enclave dwellers and their representatives Thursday welcomed the tabling of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

The bill, aimed at re-drawing the boundary between Bangladesh and India to make the porous border, with enclaves of one country within another, more manageable, was tabled in the Rajya Sabha by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid just before the house was adjourned sine die.

The bill envisages the exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India with a cumulative population of over 51,000.

"We welcome the tabling of the bill as parliament will debate about the rights of enclave dwellers for the first time since independence. The move vindicates our longstanding fight for the rights of the people," Diptiman Sengupta, the convener of Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-ordination Committee (BBEECC), told IANS.

West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, firmly opposed to the bill, has slammed the centre for introducing the bill and vowed not to implement it if it is passed.

"We are not accepting. The state government will not implement it. Not an inch of land of our state should be given away. Together, we will fight a public battle for West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and northeastern region, including other parts of the country," Banerjee said Wednesday, following the tabling of the bill.

Trinamool has asserted that West Bengal will get only about 7,000 acres while having to cede nearly 17,000 acres to Bangladesh if the LBA was implemented.

"The issue is not about politics, rather concerning the rights of 51,000 stateless people who have historically been denied basic rights and amenities," Sengupta said.

Local legislator from Dinhata (Cooch Behar) Udayan Guha of the Forward Bloc also welcomed the move and hoped the bill is passed.

"There is a ray of hope for stateless people. Their situation is so abysmal that even a pregnant woman living in an enclave is denied medical facilities because she is not an Indian citizen," Guha said.

"The chief minister is not aware of these issues as she expresses her opposition," Guha said.

--IANS (Posted on 19-12-2013)

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