Hundreds of people residing in former Bangladeshi enclaves, which are now Indian villages in Cooch Behar district, are yet to receive land rights.
The delay in validating their ownership of land is a continued source of hardship for these people who chose to become a part of India in 2015 when the two countries exchanged enclaves.
“Only a handful of them have received the (land rights) documents, but most of those are erroneous and need to be rectified. Others haven’t got their papers,” admitted a district official.
On July 31, 2015, 51 Bangladeshi enclaves that were within India merged with the Indian mainland. All 14,835 Bangladeshi residents living in these enclaves became Indians and 7,110 acres of Bangladeshi land became Indian land. On the other side, 111 Indian enclaves got merged with Bangladesh.
Later, 921 persons crossed the border and reached Cooch Behar. They are staying in settlement camps now.
“Since then, we have not yet received land rights. We have old deeds issued by Bangladeshi authorities but those are of no use now. A few of us have received documents from the district administration here (Cooch Behar) but those are full of errors. For example, a person who owns five bighas of land has been handed over land rights of only one bigha,” Jainal Abedin, a resident of Mashaldanga, a former enclave that is in Dinhata subdivision of Cooch Behar, said.
Saddam Hossain, another resident of Mashaldanga, said there are around 366 acres of land in the village.
“This delay in providing us land rights or giving us erroneous documents has left many of us in trouble,” Hossain said.
“Some of us want to take loans to build houses or mortgage land for agricultural or cash loans to meet certain expenses. None of us can do anything because of this delay,” he added.
Similar is the situation in Poaturkuthi, another former enclave that is in Dinhata-II block.
“We don’t know when this problem will end. We feel the district administration should hold camps, check our old documents and issue necessary documents. This can expedite the process (of giving us our land rights),” said Rafikul Islam, a local resident.
Diptiman Sengupta, one of the prominent faces of the movement that went on for years over the demand of the exchange of enclaves, told this paper that the state government did not carry out proper land surveys in these 51 former enclaves.
“This is a glaring instance of administrative lapse. Five years have passed and yet these people have not been provided with rights of their own land. The state government should immediately take the initiative and end this problem,” said Sengupta.
Senior officials of the district land and land reforms department stayed tight-lipped on the issue.
One of the officers, who refused to be quoted, said that the work had got delayed because of the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
“We will soon conduct hearings to rectify land documents and will also see that others are given documents which prove the ownership of their land,” the officer said.