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Making history at midnight: India-Bangladesh end decades-long land dispute

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina/AP Photo

The Indo-Bangladesh border. Photo credit: indiatvnews.com
The Indo-Bangladesh border. Photo credit: indiatvnews.com

By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

Marking the end of a seven-decade long land dispute, India and Bangladesh exchanged tiny enclaves of land at the stroke of midnight on Friday. 51 Bangladeshi border enclaves became a part of India while 111 Indian enclaves became a part of Bangladesh. It was a celebrated event and national flags were hoisted on both sides of the border in all the enclaves.

Relief to locals

The agreement gave identity to over 50,000 people who were stuck in a state-less limbo.

The celebrations kicked off post midnight. Many people lit 68 candles to mark the end of ‘68 years of endless pain and indignity.’ “We were facing lots of problems as we were trapped between India and Bangladesh. We never had any identity proof, we neither belonged to India nor Bangladesh. We faced problems in getting admission to schools, we faced problems going to hospitals. We are very happy now, we are happier than Eid or Durga Puja festivals,” said Ibrahim Sheikh of Coochbehar.

“We are happy that both the governments have solved the problems. Now, we will be able to get our identity cards, Aadhar cards and all that. We will get nationality. We are going to celebrate today,” opined Alamgir Hussain, also living in Coochbehar.

Land, divided

These small pockets of land survived the 1947 partition at the end of the British rule. They also survived the War of Independence against Pakistan in 1971. Bangladesh had deliberated over the Land Boundary agreement with India first in 1974 in order to diffuse the pockets, but India signed the final agreement only in June this year after the September 2011 protocol. The final agreement was signed by PM Narendra Modi.

According to the agreement, the governments of the two countries had let the citizens decide which of the two nationalities they want to be a part of. The 51 enclaves of Bangladesh that are to become a part of India cover an area of 7,110.02 acres of land and range over 6.1 kilometres that are to be demarcated as strict border areas. On the other hand, the 111 enclaves that are being transferred from India to Bangladesh cover an area of 17,160.63.

Officials of both the countries conducted a survey asking the residents to choose the nationality they would want. Nearly 1,000 people on the Bangladeshi side wanted to retain their Indian identity. Thus, the former residents of Bangladesh with their new found identity will leave their homes in November to return and get settled in West Bengal.

The relocation is to end on July 20, 2016. Reports say that 37,000 people are staying in the Indian enclaves of Bangladesh while 14,000 people are staying in the Bangladeshi enclaves of India. This historical Land Boundary Agreement was actualised at midnight on July 31st.

“This is nothing less than our independence day,” said 26-year-old Altaf Biswas. The people expect that the merger with India will lessen infrastructural gaps. They would have electricity and no one would have to go to India to charge their mobile phones.

The Bangladeshi students will also benefit from the merger. From now onwards, they would be saved from the hassle of acquiring fake certificates in order to apply to Indian schools. Residents are also looking forward to the government schemes that they wound be entitled to.

Apprehensions abound

However, the story is not all hunky dory. The celebrations are being dulled because of apprehensions about new neighbours.

Photo credit: Getty imahes
Photo credit: Getty images

“We have definite information that at least 16 persons, among the 979 who have applied for relocating to India, have criminal cases against them in Bangladesh. Four of the applicants are hardcore Jamaat-e-Islami members,” Diptiman Sengupta, chief coordinator of Bharat-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee, told the media while supervising the nightlong celebrations on Friday.

Furthermore, the villagers said that everything was not fair about the numbers being allowed to relocate. “Many games are being played in Bangladesh to manipulate the list of people who intend to cross over to India with an Indian citizenship,” said 18-year-old Alamgir Hussain.

“Of the 270 persons, who want to come to India from the Indian enclave of Dasiar Char in Bangladesh, many have known links with various smuggling rackets,” added his friend Joynal Abedin.

The story on the Bangladeshi side doesn’t seem to be less complicated either. Among the villagers in Mashal Danga, the landless ones have readily opted to come to India. However, the propertied class is facing problems in getting right prices for their plots and are being forced to stay back. Local land sharks are using this opportunity to acquire properties at meagre prices.

Congress MP and a member of the Rajya Sabha, Pradip Bhattacharya revealed that he had received many complaints about people wanting to relocate being bothered by the local goons. He was of the opinion that this complication will take some time to get solved.

New beginnings

India and Bangladesh have outlined the broad structure of the complex process of re-settlement of movable and immovable property. Both the governments are dedicated to facilitate “orderly, safe and secure passage” along with “personal belongings and movable property.”

The details will be posted in the public domain by the respective administrations.

Despite such problems, the mood in the enclaves of both India and Bangladesh remained largely celebratory on Friday night. The locals were in their best attires, all set to welcome each other at the official ceremony at Madha Mashal Danga. Local children and youth were seen running in open fields with the tri-colour – something they had longed to make their own for decades.

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Sushma Helps Parents of Ailing Indian Abroad Get Visas

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has come to the aid of an Indian hospitalised in France with blood infection, and helped his parents get visas to visit him

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Sushma Swaraj, External affairs minister of India. Wikimedia
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has come to the aid of an Indian hospitalised in France 
  • She helped the blood infection patient’s parents get visas to visit him
  • Akali Dal leader and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee General Secretary Manjinder S. Sirsa had brought the condition of Singh to her notice

New Delhi, July 31, 2017: Reaching out to yet another distressed national abroad, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has come to the aid of an Indian hospitalised in France with blood infection, and helped his parents get visas to visit him.

“Sardarji – Aapka France ka visa ho gaya hai. Bhagwan kare apka Beta jaldi theek ho jaye (Sardarji, your visas for France have been arranged. I pray to god that your son gets well soon,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted addressing the parents of Amrinder Singh.

On Monday, Akali Dal leader and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee General Secretary Manjinder S. Sirsa had brought the condition of Singh to her notice.

Also ReadSushma Swaraj to offer help to a person in Pakistan who highlighted his Infant’s Health Condition on Social Media

Sushma Swaraj then directed the Indian Embassy in France to help Singh.

“Amrinder’s family wishes to travel to France to save their son’s life as he is battling with blood infection,” Sirsa had tweeted.

He had also shared a video by family members of Singh who he said was “having a tough time in France owing to health problems”.

On Friday, Sirsa expressed his gratitude on seeing the minister’s message that they have been given visas.

“Deep gratitude to @SushmaSwaraj Ji for such swift action for granting visa to parents of Amrinder Singh who is in a France hospital,” he tweeted.

“This case has reaffirmed faith of people in compassionate nature of NDA Govt. @SushmaSwaraj Ji u hv given a new hope to these parents,” he stated. (IANS)

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Here’s Why Yoga is the Potential Game Changer in India’s Soft Power!

India is the land of culture and spirituality, known for its richness and legacies around the globe

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India
India's soft power
  • The Yoga day celebrations across the globe is a sign of India’s increasing influence through soft power
  • India’s culture and worldview has made an impact on the western societies as well
  • The revival of Yoga as a soft power tool has started a new era of change 

July 12, 2017: India is seen in the world as a hub of cultural importance and historical legacies. The spiritual and natural teachings of India have influenced different parts of the world and to an extent shaped their philosophies.

In the Indochina and Indonesian region, subsets of Indian culture reached out. The presence of these is still seen in China and Japan. Gradually, it spread west to the Central Asian region. India bridged the trade between East and the West, also inserting its cultural teachings and rituals in the process. It was through trade that Indian Vedic system landed in Europe, thereby greatly influencing it.

The rise of academic philosophy in the 1800s came to the East and particularly India, to form a perspective on life. Many of these philosophers also admired India and its teachings.

It was Swami Vivekanand’s visit to the west, in 1893, that brought the Indian philosophical thought, centered around Yoga, to the Western spotlight.

Vivekanand’s work on universal consciousness went on to later inspire Einstein’s masterpiece. He introduced Yoga as a form of spiritual awakening, and it instantly touched upon the masses of the western society.

Vivekananda’s Yoga was also a major player in the Indian freedom struggle. Opposed by the alien rulers, Yoga was a symbol of Indian traditions and rituals, something to stick to in a situation of foreign dominance.

ALSO READ: Here is an Elephant inspired by PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan!

Since the popularity of Yoga, many Hindu teachers and gurus have traveled abroad, spreading the ideology. These were sometimes coupled with Dharmic and Vedic teachings. Teachings of Bhagwad Gita have also had a great influence on the people.

This Indian lifestyle got more attention with the introduction of Ayurveda (a natural way of living), Mantras, Kirtans, and Indian folklores.

More than hundred million people in the world practice different forms of Yoga today. Names like Paramahansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Satya Sai Baba, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, and many others are familiar with the Westerners from various countries.

The sovereign state of India had never reaped the advantages of this soft power. The governments have mostly put minimal efforts to benefit out of Yoga. It has always been the Hindu thought that has been subject to emphasis and priority.

All that has changed in the past few years. The present Government of India’s Yoga initiatives has brought the country’s soft power approach to a new era. International Yoga Day’s success is beyond comprehension for any former political regime.

The changing face of India owes a lot to the revival of Yoga and its significance. This cultural gift to the world will provide more scope for India to climb further up the diplomatic ladder.

– by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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July 4 Brings Mixed Feelings for Some Minority Communities in USA

July 4 is Independence Day of USA How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

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Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Great Sioux Nation puts on his headdress for an interfaith ceremony at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. As cities and towns host July 4th parades and fireworks shows, some minority residents are expressing mixed feelings about the holiday used to reaffirm the country's founding based on equality and civil liberties. VOA

As many in the United States celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, some minorities have mixed feelings about the revelry of fireworks and parades in an atmosphere of tension on several fronts.

How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

Blacks, Latinos and immigrant rights advocates say the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, recent non-convictions of police officers charged in the shootings of black men, and the stepped-up detentions of immigrants and refugees for deportation have them questioning equality and the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.

Filmmaker Chris Phillips of Ferguson, Missouri, says he likely will attend a family barbecue just like every Fourth of July. But the 36-year-old black man says he can’t help but feel perplexed about honoring the birth of the nation after three officers were recently cleared in police shootings.

FILE - Protestors rally during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, July 10, 2016, in Cincinnati. More than a thousand protested against the shootings of black men by police officers.
Protestors rally during a Black Lives Matter demonstration, July 10, 2016, in Cincinnati. More than a thousand protested against the shootings of black men by police officers.

Police shootings

Since the 2014 police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, officer shootings — of black males in particular — have drawn scrutiny, sparking protests nationwide. Few officers ever face charges, and convictions are rare. Despite video, suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted last month in the shooting of Philando Castile, a black man. The 32-year-old school cafeteria worker was killed during a traffic stop July 6, almost a year ago.

“Justice apparently doesn’t apply to all people,” said Phillips, who saw the protests that roiled his town for weeks following Brown’s death. His yet-unreleased documentary “Ferguson 365″ focuses on the Brown shooting and its aftermath. “A lot of people have lost hope.”

Unlike Phillips, Janette McClelland, 55, a black musician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she has no intention of celebrating July Fourth.

“It’s a white man’s holiday to me. It’s just another day,” McClelland said. “I’m not going to even watch the fireworks. Not feeling it.”

McClelland, who grew up in Los Angeles before the urban unrest of the 1960s, said she fears cities may see more violence amid a feeling of helplessness. “I’m praying and trying to keep positive,” she said.

FILE - protesters rally outside a federal courthouse in Detroit. Protesters rallied in hopes public outcry will again delay the deportation of Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo from the United States to Mexico.
protesters rally outside a federal courthouse in Detroit. Protesters rallied in hopes public outcry will again delay the deportation of Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo from the United States to Mexico.

Immigration

Immigration was a key issue during the presidential campaign for both parties. Since then, President Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up enforcement and instituted a scaled-back partial travel ban that places new limits on entry to the U.S. for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. The temporary ban requires people to prove a close family relationship in the U.S. or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business. On Friday, the administration announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would arrest people — including relatives — who hire smugglers to bring children into the U.S. illegally.

Patricia Montes, a Boston resident and immigrant from Honduras, said she’s grateful for the opportunities and security the United States has given her. Yet this year, she doesn’t know how to approach the Fourth of July holiday.

“I fell very conflicted,” said Montes, an immigrant advocate. “I mean, what are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

Montes said it pains her to see children fleeing violence get turned away and deported back to Central America without due process. She also is disturbed by recent immigration raids in Latino and Muslim communities that spark more fear and uncertainty.

In Texas, Latino activists have been protesting a state law that forces cities and towns to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In New Mexico and Michigan, immigrant advocates have been rallying on behalf of Iraqi refugees facing deportation.

“There’s a lot not to be proud about when celebrating the Fourth of July,” said Janelle Astorga Ramos, a University of New Mexico student and daughter of a Mexican immigrant. “Even though it’s a time to celebrate as a country and (for) our unity, it’s definitely going to be on the back of our minds.”

Despite those problems and concerns, Ramos said her family will recognize the holiday and visit Elephant Butte, New Mexico, a popular summer destination. “This is our home,” Ramos said.

Isabella Baker, a 17-year-old Latina from Bosque Farms, New Mexico, said she’ll celebrate the holiday based on her own views of patriotism.

“More people are standing up because of the political climate,” Baker said. “That makes me proud.”

America Indians and their supporters protest outside of the White House, March 10, 2017, in Washington, to rally against the construction of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.
America Indians and their supporters protest outside of the White House, March 10, 2017, in Washington, to rally against the construction of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Pipeline protest

For months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux were at the center of a protest against an oil pipeline in North Dakota. A protest camp was set up. The tribe said the Dakota Access oil pipeline plan could pose a threat to water sources if there was a leak and cause cultural harm. Police made more than 700 arrests between August 2016 and February 2017. The Trump administration approved the final permit for the $3.8 billion pipeline, which began operating June 1. The pipeline moves oil from western North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. Four Sioux tribes are still fighting in federal court to get the line shut down.

Ruth Hopkins, a member of South Dakota’s Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, said Native Americans have always viewed the Fourth of July with ambivalence, and this year will be no different.

However, there will be celebrations.

Her Lake Traverse Indian Reservation holds an annual powwow on July 4 to honor veterans as a way to take the holiday back, she said.

“Also, a lot of people up here use fireworks and the holiday to celebrate victory over Custer for Victory Day,” said Hopkins, referring to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeating George Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Still, the holiday comes after tribes and others gathered in North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its fight against the pipeline, Hopkins said. Because of that, water and land rights remain on peoples’ mind, Hopkins said.

Gyasi Ross, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and a writer who lives on the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle, said all the tensions this Fourth of July are a blessing because it has awakened a consciousness among people of color.

“The gloves are off,” Ross said. “We can’t ignore these things anymore.”

However, Ross said he wants his young son to be hopeful about the future. They will likely go fishing on the Fourth of July.

“I still worry about getting shot or something like that,” Ross said. “All this stuff is so heavy to be carrying around.” (VOA)