Ritabrata Banerjee on Constitution (119th amendment) bill 2013 on 6th of May 2015


As I rise to support this historic amendment on behalf of my party I want to mention that today along with the people of our country 15 crore Bengalis living in Bangladesh and most importantly 1.5 crore Bengalis living in the enclaves are looking at us.

Life of these enclave dwellers is miserable; they are practically men of nowhere land. They live a life of misery, devoid of basic necessities and without national identity.

As a student of fifth standard in 1990 I first heard the word “Chhitmahal” the Bengali word for enclave.

In the enclaves there are no physical lines, no demarcation that separates enclave dwellers from people living in the mainland of Bengal and Bangladesh. The communities have the same culture food habit dress and most importantly the same mother tongue. The only difference is the realization- that they stay in a ‘foreign land.’

Many people in these enclaves are going through an identity crisis as they were originally from Bangladesh but celebrate occasions like independence and republic day of India.

 Life is often dangerous for these enclave dwellers. Each time they step out of enclaves they can be arrested by Indian Border Security Force who consider them Bangladeshis even though Bangladesh doesn’t recognize them as their own citizens. They remain aloof from main stream society.

The enclaves have no basic amenities, parents send children to school on the Indian side. That too is only possible when their Indian friends agree to pose as their guardians on paper.

 Enclaves don’t have hospitals. Pregnant women face problems as doctors on the Indian side of the border refuse to admit mothers in labour. Even if they somehow persuade the doctors, the children are not provided with birth certificates.

The enclaves are inhabited mostly by Muslims who are left bereft of a proper place of worship. Accountability, jurisdiction and administration are completely missing thus giving rise to serious law and order issues.

 The biggest testimony is that marijuana plants which are considered narcotics are openly blooming in these enclaves. Law authorities cannot enter any chitmahals thus making them free land for underground world- one can find cannabis cultivation in backyards of people’s houses.

 These enclaves remain till date an enigma.

The borders of the Indian States of Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Tripura will be affected by this exchange of territory. This Agreement has not been implemented yet.

This long overdue exchange will endeavour to harmonise India’s land boundaries and, more importantly, improve the lives of all those residents of the enclaves who, by an unfortunate twist of fate, have been living without a national identity and without enjoying or ever knowing the quality of life enjoyed by their neighbours.

If one were to compare the area of land that India receives in this exchange to what India gives away, the former falls short of the latter by 10,000 acres.

While it may appear like a net loss of territory, such loss is illusory. Only Humanity is the winner.

 I come from a refugee family. My father came here in 1946 when he was a fifth standard student. My family like other refugee families settled in the colonies in and around Kolkata.

I was not born in 1971 but i know from the refugee colonies how much was the emotion during the 71 Bangladesh Liberation war.

People of Bangladesh will always remember Mrs Gandhi for her role in Bangladesh s liberation struggle. The present endeavour will also be noted.

Dr Karan Singh while speaking invoked Mujibar Rahaman. Mujib , a fire brand speaker had given the clarion call- “ ora amar mukher bhasa kaira nite chai/ je bhasai katha koito amar baap dadai”. This eastern Bengali dialect means that the Pakistani rulers tried to snatch away our mother tongue which have been spoken for centuries and generations by our fathers and ancestors.

Partition was not done by Bengali people but we have suffered for generations and continue to do so.

Todays opportunity is a historic one in which humanity will be championed.

I support this bill.