In Pictures: The Faces Behind the Indo-Bangladesh Enclave Swap
Enclave dwellers registered themselves at the recently concluded Indo-Bangladesh joint headcount camp which was held at all 163 enclaves on both sides of the border. In the picture above, the flag of the India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee hangs in the foreground at the Poaturkuthi enclave in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district. The organisation was formed over 30 years ago by enclave dwellers to fight for national identities and basic human rights.
A Bangladeshi enclave dweller registering her name at a joint headcount camp held at the Mashaldanga enclave in Cooch Behar. She chose to stay in India after the exchange of enclaves between the two countries. Some 15,000 dwellers of Bangladeshi enclaves inside India would be awarded Indian citizenship. No enclave dweller on the Indian side of the border chose to cross over.
The banks of the Singimari Madanakura river adjacent to the Batrigachh enclave inside India. Several hundred acres of land in the enclave has been eroded by the monster river causing endless suffering to the people here.
This nondescript stone pillar is the only indicator of the India-Bangladesh border in the Madhya Mashaldanga enclave. On the far side is Indian territory. Aside from this pillar, there is nothing else to demarcate Indian territory from Bangladesh.
A woman washes her face at the counter enclave Chhit Madnakura. This small patch of land where she lives is India within Bangladesh, which in turn is surrounded by the Indian mainland.
Zahida Begum, a resident of the Bashkatha enclave at the Lalmonirhat district of northern Bangladesh, makes her living by stitching clothes. She earns 30 takas a day, sometimes even less, which is far below the poverty line. She has opted for Bangladeshi citizenship following the swapping of enclaves.
Kulsoom Khatun, a dweller of Garati enclave in the Panchagarh district of northern Bangladesh, breaks down while describing the torture she had to endure allegedly at the hands of Bangladeshi citizens. Her house was torched and she lost all her belongings, including cattle. Some 110 houses were burnt in an attack on the enclave in 2010 leading to a large scale humanitarian crisis in which relief material was disbursed by governments of both India and Bangladesh.
Jawans of the Bangladesh Border Guard keep vigil at the Burimari-Changrabandha land border which connects Bangladesh to the north Bengal district of Cooch Behar. You can see the border posts in the background. The region witnesses rampant smuggling of cattle and narcotics.
Modi and Hasina ‘across the net’. A child in front of a poster which caricatures the plight of enclave dwellers caught between the policies of the governments of India and Bangladesh. The photo was taken on the night when residents were celebrating the exchange of enclaves between the two countries.
The Indian Tricolour was hoisted for the first time on enclave soil at the stroke of midnight of 31 July and 1 August, the hour at which the historic Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh was executed. The flag was then kept at half-mast in memory of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam who passed away recently.
(Smita Sharma is an Indian freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based between New York and Kolkata.)
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