KOLKATA: A year ago, 103-year-old Azgar Ali sported a tri-colour cap along with 14,215 others who opted for Indian citizenship, celebrated the merger of the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves with India. But now, he is angry and dejected at the lack of development.
“I have dreamt of electricity at our homes and proper roads in my lifetime. But nothing happened in the last year,” he said. Similarly, Sheikh Mansur who has only one tooth left and has got freedom thrice in his life — in 1947, when East Pakistan was created, then in 1971 when Bangladesh was formed, and again on August 1, 2015, when the Poatur Kuthi enclave was merged with India — is also frustrated with the lack of development.
Along with these old men, several other residents of Mashaldanga and other enclaves protested at Dinhata in Cooch Behar in north Bengal, 716 km from here, with black scarves covering their mouths.
The former enclaves of Botrigachh and Bhurungamari have been flooded but the residents could not obtain any flood relief as the lands were officially not “Indian”. Even after an year, the government has not taken any initiative to transform the title deeds. A majority of these former enclave dwellers are farmers and harvest is extremely profitable as the land is fertile. But when they approached authorities for agriculture loans they had to return empty-handed.
The reason cited was the same: “No loan or insurance policy can be given for lands with Bangladeshi title deeds.” All development projects, including roads, schools and electricity, have been stalled because of the same reason.
The younger generation, who have visited other parts of India and have witnessed the development there, were also frustrated. Young men like Vishnu, Saddam, and Jamal who had dreamt of a bright future as Indians said, “We had craved for freedom the last 69 years. But what kind of independence have we attained?”