Dhaka: On Saturday, when the clock struck 12.00 a.m., around 52,000 inhabitants of 162 enclaves in Bangladesh and India got the taste of freedom for the first time in 68 years, officially becoming citizens of either of the two countries.
Former Indian enclave residents carry torches and a Bangladesh flag as they take part in a procession at Dasiarchhara, Kurigram in Bangladesh. Pic/AFP
It was also the moment when the tiny pockets of land -- or enclaves -- in each other's territories got merged with their respective countries, bringing an end to one of the most complicated and confusing border disputes in the world, the DailyStar reported.
The moment marked the end of the stateless existence of these people as the neighbouring countries exchanged the land, following the historic land boundary agreement signed and ratified earlier this year.
There was joy all around the 111 enclaves in Bangladesh, with people organising an array of programmes to mark the end of their identity crisis, deprivation and obscurity.
They lit 68 candles, released 68 balloons, brought out processions and organised traditional sports and cultural programmes on Friday.
In some enclaves, people brought out processions carrying the red and green flag of Bangladesh, and chanting slogans like: "Noi ar chhit basi, amra ekhon Bangladeshi” (We're no more enclave people, we're Bangladeshis)."
"We are Bangladesh nationals now. I cannot describe in words how happy I am,” said 65-year-old Hashem Ali, an inhabitant of Bhitarkuti enclave in Lalmonirhat, the district that had 59 enclaves.
Mansur Ali, 60, of Banshkata enclave said: "Now we will enjoy all kinds of state facilities. Our children would not need to use fake identities anymore. They will now get jobs."
Azizul Islam, general secretary of India-Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee's Lalmonirhat unit, said the national flag of Bangladesh would be hoisted officially in all these enclaves on Saturday.
In India, similar programmes were held in Mashaldanga enclave in Cooch Bihar of West Bengal where political leaders and officials of local administration attended.