Ballad of ‘enclaved’ humanity
Book review in The Daily Star, 17 January 2017
Gray Image of Humanity in the Enclaves Zone, Sushmita Choudhury and Maria Hussain Dhaka: National Human Rights Commission, 2013. 48 pp.
Mohammad Golam Sarwar and Emraan Azad
Let’s imagine a scenario where a husband with his pregnant wife is denied by the border security personnel to cross the border in the dark hours of mid-night, only because they do not have any valid identity card or citizenship of a particular country to visit the medical center on the other side. Imagine a scenario where population of a particular territory for meeting daily needs has to follow a ‘time-fixed’ twelve-hours (restrictive) freedom of movement in order to visit its own territory walking through a ‘foreign territory’, i.e. the corridor of another state. For them, the entitlement to use the passage of corridor living in the forgotten lands of enclave is not a matter of ‘right’, but of ‘day-dream’.
The current book under review titled Gray Image of Humanity in the Enclaves Zone, jointly authored by Sushmita Choudhury, IVLP alumna USA and former Human Rights Program Specialist, Relief International-USA (Bangladesh Country Office), and Maria Hussain, Lecturer at the University of Dhaka, explores such inhumane scenarios with umpteen practical references to the problematic human rights issue of the Bangladeshi population ‘enclaved’ within the territory of India. Published in 2013 by the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh, the book is an outcome of empirical research conducted in some of the enclaves of Bangladesh and India, namely Kochua, Falnapur, Masaldangja and Nolgram.
Factually, the problem of enclaves had been in existence since the partition of British India in 1947. Immediately after the liberation war of Bangladesh, the then independent government ratified the Land Boundary Agreement in 1974 through a constitutional amendment to accommodate the implementation of it. India took almost forty-one years to ratify and eventually implement the same. However, since 2015 at the completion of ‘enclaves-exchange’, Bangladesh and India have now the control of governance over their respective enclaves.
The celebration of ‘enclaves-exchange’ is already meant to bring stability and peace in the friendly relations of Bangladesh-India. The plight of the ‘enclaved’ population encountered during the pre-exchange years, should also be remembered to respect their saga of sufferings. Considering this, the present book explores how the population of enclaves used to face problems while enjoying their basic human rights. This work also depicts how traditionally the issue of enclave had been ignored by the state authority. A historical reference shows that these enclaves once used to be treated as ‘currency’ in a series of chase game between the Maharaja of Kuch Bihar and the Maharaja of Rangpur (p. 11).
After setting out the historical background of enclaves (from pre-1947 till 1971) and related post-independence development, the book demystifies the idea of ‘enclave territory’ from a theoretical perspective of international law (pp. 11-28). The book then extensively explains the causes for the disempowerment of the enclaved population in the affairs of the society including politics, economics, culture and justice system (pp. 24-30). With case studies obtained from field survey, problems relating to the enjoyment of rights to education, health, work, vote and freedom of movement have also been highlighted in this book (pp. 35-46).
Besides featuring the enclave-related security threats and potential cross-border criminal movement, this book particularly presents the complex issue of citizenship (concerning the people of Bangladesh ‘enclaved’ in the territories within India) which remained an unresolved bilateral issue until 2015 settlement. The case-studies placed in this book relating to the denial of their right to nationality by the state establishment clearly show that they were citizens neither of Bangladesh nor India (pp. 27 & 30). The European University Institute (EUI)-funded study on the citizenship law of Bangladesh (December, 2016), authored by Professor Dr. Ridwanul Hoque has impliedly endorsed this finding that the enclaved peoples used to live in a situation of ‘virtual statelessness’. Anyone can now assume that such a situation of statelessness had negative ramifications on the exercise of their civil, political and socio-economic rights.
As the scarcity of sufficient socio-legal research concerning the crisis of enclaved population of India-Bangladesh exists in the maximum books of international law written by authors with global repute, the present book seems to be an unorthodox research contribution in the field of human rights relating to the distress of those human beings.
The Reviewers Are Lecturers In Law At The University Of Dhaka And The University Of Asia Pacific Respectively.