ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Elections and Borders

On the eve of the parliamentary elections in West Bengal, the residents on the Indo-Bangladesh border have started getting the attention of political leaders of different colours. The border issue has taken a dramatic turn with Narendra Modi’s recent proclamation in an election meeting (27 April) in Serampore in Hooghly district that if he comes to power illegal Bangladeshi immigrants will be immediately deported.

It is reported in the media that there are 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The residents of the enclaves, known as chhit mahals, have been denied citizenship rights and voter ID cards for years. So they are forced to negotiate with the political bosses and security forces for their survival in everyday life. Some of them have managed to acquire voter cards through illegal means. In mid-April 2014, Hindustan Times carried a report on enclaves where it interviewed Diptiman Sengupta, chief coordinator of the Bharat-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee. According to Sengupta, 92% of the chhit mahal residents are Muslims and only 8% Hindus. He opined that all have decided to support the Bharatiya Janata Party in these polls. To put it in the words of another leader of the coordination committee and a resident of the Paschim Bakalirchara enclave, Gobinda Burman: “The BJP does not have to even campaign for votes in our enclaves. We will give all our votes to them with the hope that it will form the government at the centre and look into our cause.”

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