As inhabitants of the 166 enclaves celebrate the end of 68 years of statelessness with the historic swapping of enclaves between India and Bangladesh completed, some of them are left to confront some harsh realities on the ground, such as land grabbing by powerful stakeholders in the enclaves that have gone unchallenged for the most part over the past decades. In Banshpacha in Lalmonirhat, for example, residents claim that 160 out of total 217 acres of land in the former enclave was under the illegal possession of 15 identified land grabbers. Previously, the area and its inhabitants remained outside the jurisdiction of law enforcers of both Bangladesh and India, which all but gave the land grabbers a free run to do as they wished. The villagers were afraid to protest vocally as they feared retaliation from the land grabbers and their hired goons.
Now that the residents are citizens of Bangladesh, they hope that the local administration and Bangladeshi police would enable them to retrieve their land from the alleged grabbers, answering their prayers at long last. We, too, urge the state authorities, who have played an instrumental role in enabling the smooth transfer of enclaves, to address the concerns of the affected villagers on an urgent basis.
Land grabbing and land-related disputes are emerging as a pressing problem affecting a vast number of people in the former enclaves. The expectations are that now the administration will rise to the task and take appropriate measures to ensure just allocation of land for people who have, for too long, lived a life of deprivation.