At the stroke of midnight, tens of thousands of Indians and Bangladeshis living near the border between the two countries got their own country for the first time in 70 years.
As part of an agreement between the two nations, the fate of just under 15,000 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside India and more than 37,000 in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh has finally been determined. Most will stay where they are, but change their nationality. Some are moving, and some of them are leaving behind family members.
The BBC says: “For six decades they have been treated as in effect stateless, but the agreement between India and Bangladesh means they will now finally gain a proper identity.”
The BBC explains that the enclaves date to the 18th Century and were created by local peace treaties. The fate of the enclaves was left unresolved by the partition of India in 1947, as the British vacated their vast colony and it cleaved into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan fought a short but bloody war to separate as independent Bangladesh.
According to The Hindustan Times none of those living in the enclaves on the Indian side of the border have opted for Bangladeshi citizenship, and about 979 on the Bangladeshi side have chosen to join India. But there is deep suspicion that hardened criminals and Islamist extremists may be among those who are crossing to India, the newspaper reports.
Chapala Barman, 60, a Hindu who has lived all her life in the Dahala-Khagrabari enclave in Bangladesh, is one that will leave and cross the border with her three sons, according to Agence France-Presse.
The French news agency says she is being forced to live behind three daughters because they married Bangladeshis and are ineligible to move, according to the agreement. She will also leave her grandchildren.
“My grandsons call me by mobile phone, saying ‘grandma, please don’t go’. My heart pounds with fear when I hear a mobile phone calling,” she tells AFP.
In enclaves on the Indian side of the border, The Hindustan Times writes:
“Local children and youth were seen running across vast fields with the Indian national flag – something they have longed to make their own. They have been hoisting the Tricolour every January 26 and August 15 as part of their campaign for getting Indian citizenship.
“On Friday night, they will hoist it for the first time, ‘rightfully’.
“‘This is nothing less than our own Independence Day,’ said 26-year-old Altaf Biswas.”