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How a game of chess between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur created India-Bangladesh border issue

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s historic land swap deal with Bangladesh was perhaps one of the very few instances where the current Government gave due credit to its predecessor. During the recent discussions about the constitutional amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister said, “I have said this before and I’m saying it again that this work was started by Manmohan Singh and we are only completing it.”

After hectic consultations and short lived blame game, the Government decided to include the Bangladeshi territories lying in Assam in the agreement as well. While the experts are terming this constitutional amendment as a ‘success’, majority of the common public is still clueless as to what this agreement exactly holds.

What exactly is the issue here?

Unlike most other nations, India and Bangladesh share a complex border. Fortunately, this ‘complexity’ isn’t due to any disagreement on where the actual border lies. It is the placement of these ‘well-accepted’ borders that gives birth to these complexities.

There are a number of enclaves on in the northern part of the border shared by India and Bangladesh. Enclaves are small pieces of land surrounded from all sides by a foreign country. The most famous enclave in the world is the Vatican City, which is located inside Italy’s capital, Rome. Another example is the Kingdom of Lesotho, which is located inside South Africa.

There are 106 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh. The largest among them is Dasiar Chhara which has an area of 6.65 square km. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has 92 enclaves in India, with the largest one being 25.95 square km. And that is not all! There are many counter enclaves and counter-counter enclaves as well. On the Indian side, these enclaves are located in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura.

How did it all mess up?

There is no proven historical record about the exact happenings that led to this border situation. It is said that these enclaves came into being as a result of exchanges during chess matches between King of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur. The final shape of the enclaves was a part of a treaty between the Mughal Kingdom and the King of Cooch Behar in 1713. During partition, Cooch Behar came to India whereas Rangpur went to erstwhile East Pakistan. Due to constant trouble with Pakistan, these issues were never looked into till 1971.

The history of negotiations

The land swap deal came on the table for the first time in 1974 when Mujibur Rehman and Indira Gandhi signed an agreement to exchange the respective enclaves. Under this agreement, India provided a narrow strip of land to Bangladesh to provide access to its Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves in India. This narrow strip of land is called ‘Teen Bigha Corridor’. While Bangladesh was quick to ratify the agreement in its national parliament, India could never get it passed.

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In 2011, Manmohan Singh signed a ‘border demarcation’ and ‘enclaves exchange’ agreement with Sheikh Hasina. The UPA 2 Government tried to push forward the 1974 agreement in the Parliament and get it ratified, but it was vehemently opposed by the BJP. The move also saw sharp opposition from other parties including Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad. The BJP, in fact, in 2011, said that such exchange would be a ‘national loss’ to the country! Even this time, there were multiple hiccups in the passage of the bill, with the NDA Government keeping Assam out of the agreement till the very last moment.

What does it mean for the people living in those enclaves?

According to a joint census in July 2010, there were 37,269 Indian citizens in Indian enclaves and 14,215 Bangladeshi citizens in its enclaves in India. Residents of these enclaves live in despicable conditions. With no connection with their own Government, basic amenities such as electricity and healthcare are a distant possibility for them. They can’t cross over to their own nation since it would mean that they are entering foreign land without permissions.

The land swap agreement is expected to change the lives of over 50,000 people for the better. All those residing in the Bangladeshi enclaves in India shall be granted Indian citizenship in accordance with the section-7 of the ‘Indian Citizenship Act, 1955’. This act provides Indian citizenship to the population residing in territories incorporated in India. The same section was applied when Sikkim was incorporated into India in 1975.

With both countries promising a favourable treatment to the residents of each other’s enclaves, much migration across the border isn’t expected once the agreement is implemented on the ground. This agreement would also help in keeping a check on infiltration and illegal entry of narcotics and other banned commodities across the border. Although India would lose about 40 kilometres square land in the deal, the final resolution to the long lingering issue is worth the cost.

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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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Manushi Chhillar from India Wins the Miss World 2017 Title

India's Manushi Chillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant here, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

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Miss World
Manushi Chhillar has been crowned as Miss World 2017. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

China, November 19: India’s Manushi Chhillar won the coveted Miss World 2017 pageant, 16 years after Priyanka Chopra won the title in 2000.

Chhillar competed against 108 contestants from various countries at a glittering event held at Sanya City Arena here.

Miss World 2016 winner Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle gave away the coveted crown to the winner.

Chhillar, who is from Haryana, had earlier this year won the Femina Miss India 2017.

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Anti Ageing was the official skin care expert for Manushi Chhillar at the Miss World 2017 pageant. Instagram #ManushiChhillar

India, England, France, Kenya and Mexico grabbed the top five spots at the peagant.

Manushi, born to doctor parents, studied in St. Thomas School in New Delhi and Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonepat.

Her entire family including brother and sister were present and they looked excited watching Manushi grabbing top five spot.

As many as 108 beauty queens from different parts of the world participated in the prestigious pageant. (IANS)

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)