Enclaves are small pieces of land under the jurisdiction of one sovereign nation that are completely surrounded by the territory of another sovereign nation. The Indo-Bangladesh border is mapped with 162 enclaves, out of which 51 are Bangladeshi enclaves surrounded by Indian Territory. After seven decades of disenfranchisement, virtual statelessness and socio-economic struggles, the residents of the enclaves were given a choice to opt for the citizenship of either India or Bangladesh with the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) in 2015. The people were promised the rights related to their economic activity, land, social security and other benefits that accompany the right to nationality. All the residents of former Bangladeshi enclaves chose to remain in India while around a 1000 Indian enclave residents from Bangladesh chose to return. These people have been given temporary settlement in three rehabilitation camps in Cooch Behar, West Bengal.

Since 2012, MASUM has worked relentlessly to monitor the living conditions of enclave dwellers. Our work has revealed that the promise of the LBA remains far from being fulfilled. Several problems related to citizenship, land entitlements, headcount and social security schemes continue to make lives miserable for former enclave residents.

We have started mobilizing the enclave residents and organizing them into committees called Amra Chitmoholbasi (we, the enclave residents). Along with committees in enclaves, there is also a District level committee in Cooch Behar to address the problems of enclave residents and lobby with the administration regarding their demands. We have conducted several fact findings and sent complaints to different HRIs, state and administrative bodies regarding the deprivation of basic rights of enclave residents. These complaints can be found here.

After consistent intervention, the problems of erstwhile enclave residents are gaining administrative attention and support from various HRIs and Civil Society Organizations. Developmental work related to building roads, primary schools and infrastructure has been initiated in some former enclaves.