Contested Identity

By: Rup Kumar Barman  

‘Citizenship’ is considered to be a ‘fundamental right’ of a ‘national’ within the boundary of state of his/ her origin. But ‘national identity’ and ‘citizenship’ of the dwellers of the Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves have remained as a matter of contest since the 1950s. The Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves were originated through the interactions of the Cooch Behar State (Koch kingdom) with the Mughal-ruled Bengal (16th to 18th century) and later with the British Indian empire (1757 to 1947). They have become a matter of bilateral relations of India and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) since the 1950s when Cooch Behar State merged with India (1949). Before their mutual exchange (in 2015 between India and Bangladesh), there were 111 Indian enclaves within the territories bordered by Bangladesh and 92 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. Being isolated from Bangladesh, the dwellers of the Bangladeshi enclaves have remained beyond the preview of Bangladeshi citizenship. In India, they were nothing but ‘proxy citizens’ who had to enjoy civil and political rights only with deceit courses. As proxy citizens, they had faced abysmal trouble in their daily lives including pursuing education, enjoying minimum facility in health care, and economic activities. Condition of the Indian enclaves dwellers was more critical. Many of them had compelled to migrate to the safer places or tried to survive without minimum rights as stateless citizens. In this paper I highlight all these aspects of the ‘identity’ and ‘contested citizenship’ of the Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves dwellers from an international perspective.

Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Rup Kumar Barman

Professor and Head , History , Jadavpur University,, India
West Bengal, , India

Rup Kumar Barmar has currently engaed himself in the research on democratic experiemnts of the postcolonial nations of South Asia and their mutual problems.