Ownership of land has turned to be an apple of discord for over 40,000 people of 111 erstwhile Indian enclaves, now part of mainland Bangladesh, who still celebrate the historic land swap between Bangladesh and India on July 31.
The problem surfaced a day after the enclave transfer when rival groups of people at Dashiarchhara under Fulbari upazila of Kurigram, the biggest erstwhile Indian enclave in Bangladesh territory, clashed over the ownership of a piece of land, leaving at least 10 people injured.
Disputes over land ownership arises as people in the former enclaves had purchased or sold their lands using non-judicial stamps either of India or of Bangladesh as they had no access to official land registration process until the exchange of the enclaves. Many of them are now worried about the legal settlement of their land.
Many dwellers of No-119 Bashkata, a former Indian enclave inside Bangladesh under Patgram upazila of Lalmonirhat, told this correspondent that they have purchased land using non-judicial stamps.
Bashkata resident Azibul Islam (35) said he is worried about the 68-decimal land he purchased from one Moni Babu in 2003 using Bangladeshi non-judicial stamp. Some residents of that same enclave stood witness to the purchase of the land, he added.
Like Azibul, Tainul Haque of erstwhile No-16 Votbari enclave under Patgram upazila also has the same story.
He purchased 1.5-acre land from one Habibur Rahaman in 2011 using Indian non-judicial stamp. But now, he is concerned whether the purchase will stand legal in the present context. He also expressed his concern over the land management issue.
Several hundreds of people of enclaves sold and purchased land in different point of time using these non-judicial stamps. Now they expect the government and the local administration to resolve this issue smoothly.
Just after the exchange of enclaves on July 31, some of the residents clashed at Dashiarchhara under Fulbari upazila of Kurigram, the biggest erstwhile Indian enclave, over land disputes. At least 10 people were injured in the clash. The melee broke out when two individuals claimed the ownership of a piece of land.
Sirajul Islam, a resident of former Shalbari-Kajaldighi-Deluadanga-Natoktoka enclave—widely known as Kajaldighi enclave in Panchagarh, however, told The Independent that there is no such problem in their area after the land exchange.
“Most of the people here are very happy as they are now the citizens of Bangladesh. A police camp has already been set up here and the people are feeling safe and enjoying freedom,” he added.
When asked about the land-rated problems, Golam Mostafa, general secretary of Bharat-Bangla Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC) Bangladesh chapter, said some issues might arise as there was no legal access for the people living in 162 enclaves over the last 67 years.
“Some of these people may have used non-judicial stamps for purchasing or selling land as they had no other alternative. Original papers and related documents for these lands are kept at the Cooch Behar land office in India since the separation of the subcontinent. I think the government would definitely take some initiatives in this regard considering the legal limitations of the residents during the enclave regime,” he added.
Contacted, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Kurigram Aktar Hossain Azad said a joint meeting of India and Bangladesh will be held in India on August 10 to discuss issues relating to land documents including the cadastral survey (CS) papers.
“The settlement of land issues will be done peacefully. So, the people, who had been living in the enclaves, need not be worried about it,” he added.
After a historic land transfer between the two neighboring counties on July 31, 162 erstwhile enclaves are now the part of the main land India and Bangladesh. Through the land exchange, nearly 56 thousands people got their freedom and identity of citizens of sovereign countries.
These peoples were confined and deprived from all civic amenities for last six decades. As they had no access to legal procedures of either Bangladesh or India, they now hope the Bangladesh government would come forward and acknowledge their land purchase done through signing of non-judicial stamps.