Bangla media hails land swap as ‘freedom at midnight’

Saturday, 1 August,Dhaka: The historic land swap between Bangladesh and India that ended one of the world’s most intractable border disputes on Saturday dominated mainstream Bangladesh media which described the event as “freedom at midnight”.

“Free, finally,” read the mass circulation Daily Star as residents erupted into celebrations hoisting Bangladesh flag when the clock struck one minute past midnight on Friday night, drawing an end to the complex border dispute, which remained unsettled since the 1947 partition of Indian sub-continent.

The residents of Indian enclaves lit 68 candles and released 68 balloons chanting slogans “Bangladesh, Bangladesh”, marking the end of their 68 years of miseries. The elected people’s representatives in the neighbourhood of mainland Bangladesh handed over the national standard to the elderly people at enclaves as a mark of acceptance of the enclave dwellers as Bangladeshi nationals.

“Spectators, I would like to inform you one thing, I was standing on the soil of India’s Coochbehar district one minute ago, now I am talking to you standing on the same soil, which is now integral part of Bangladesh’s Kurigram district,” said a reporter of Chanel 71, covering the midnight ceremony.

“Enclaves now history: Statelessness limbo for over 50,000 ends with India-Bangladesh land swap”, read the main headline of the Independent newspaper on Saturday. The pro-opposition New Age in its main story said, “Enclave dwellers both old and young, men and women celebrated freedom from confined life’ of 68 years in a festive mood.” The mass circulation Ittefaq headlined its main report, “End of 68 years of captivity”.

The Daily Star carried a front page picture that shows two elderly neighbours, who were not on talking terms for 30 years over a dispute on a piece of land, hugging each other. “The exchange of enclaves put an end to their longstanding feud yesterday,” it said.

The Samokal newspaper carried its main report headlined “The darkness has gone; the dawn has broke”. Residents of the enclaves told newspapers that they would now have access to “hospitals, find jobs”.

“We won’t have to go to India in search of work,” 21-year old Kalpana told a newspaper. “We want our own school. How long should our children walk miles to get education? Even then by faking our identity?” said another resident Obaidul Islam. Past midnight on Friday, 111 Indian enclaves measuring 17,160 acres became Bangladesh territory. Similarly, 51 Bangladesh enclaves measuring 7,110 acres became Indian territory.