India today took a historic step with the Lok Sabha clearing the land agreement with Bangladesh [Land Boundary Agreement Bill cleared, PM Narendra Modi thanks Sonia Gandhi].
It is no doubt a huge step forward and aims at ending several years of hardship and anxiety to those living in enclaves on the wrong side of the border.
This agreement would give the people living in the enclaves in either countries to move back to their respective countries. For years they were not given facilities by the government as they were always caught on the wrong side of the border.
With this agreement going through the people in these enclaves will have the right to move into their respective countries and claim their legitimate rights.
What is the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974? How does it help the people along the border and especially those living in enclaves.
What is the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974?
India and Bangladesh have a common boundary of around 4096.7 kilometres. The land boundary between the Indian and then East Pakistan boundary was determined by the Radcliffe Award of 1974.
However some disputes came up over this award. However on May 16 1974 an agreement was signed between India and Bangladesh and it was decided that a solution to the dispute would be found.
The agreement was ratified by Bangladesh, but India restrained.
As per the agreement India would retain half of of Berubari Union No. 12 while Bangladesh in exchange would retain the Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves. Further the agreement also stated that India would have to lease to Bangladesh a small area near Dahagram and Angarpota.
The problem with the enclaves
Post partition there were 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh which was around 17,160.63 acres. In Bangladesh there are 51 enclaves which was around 7,110.02 acres.
The problem is that these people living in the enclaves are on the wrong side of the border. They do not enjoy full legal rights and even do not have access to proper facilities.
The agreement on the enclaves
According to the Land Boundary Agreement those people living in these enclaves have the right to stay where they are as nationals. The problem is that in the Indian enclaves there are Bangladeshis living and in the Bangladeshi enclaves it is vice versa.
When a joint delegation of India and Bangladesh had visited these enclaves in 2007, the residents told them that they would not want to move across and prefer to live where they have been living.
The issue of adverse possession
The adverse possession is the contagious issue. The issue is that there is territory which is under India's control but is legally part of Bangladesh. All those residing in this adverse possession are Indian citizens.
The case is similar in Bangladesh as well. India was meant to get 2,777.038 acres of land. India was then meant to transfer 2267.682 acres to Bangladesh.
In the year 2011, a protocol was signed between the two countries. As per this agreement it was decided that those living along the border are not to be dislodged or moved.
However due to various factors the agreement did not move forward and both countries decided to maintain status quo. However taking into account the uncertainties of the people living in these areas a Constitutional amendment was approved.
What will be the final solution now?
With the Lok Sabha clearing the Land Agreement with Bangladesh, it would ensure a lot of property especially for those people living in the enclaves.
These persons had no access to various facilities provided by the government as they were always on the wrong side of the border. With the Lok Sabha clearing the agreement, both India and Bangladesh can acquire the enclaves within its own borders and also other disputed territories.
The people living on the wrong side of the border will now have the right to move to their respective countries.
Will these persons who have been living in these enclaves move after having lived for so many decades? Many feel the answer is no although the step taken by the Lok Sabha today puts an end to a procedural complication.