Overlapping enclaves, ghost countries

Dahala Khagrabari in Bangladesh is a plain jute farmland of less than 650 acres. The jute farmer who lives in Bangladesh wakes up early in the morning. If he wants to go to the fields to check the crops, he needs to “go abroad”, cross the borders of India and Bangladesh, and finally come to this politically affiliated territory of India.

Daalla Kagobule, the unique “triple enclave” in the world. It is owned by India and is surrounded by a Bangladeshi enclave, and this Bangladeshi enclave is surrounded by an Indian enclave, and the Indian enclave that surrounds them is in Bangladesh.

The “magic nature” of the enclave is displayed to its extreme in the Cooch-Behar area where Daalla Kagobli is located. This area on the border of India and Bangladesh is densely packed with 198 enclaves around the 4000-kilometer winding border. They are nested in each other, forming a situation of “you in you and you in me”.

In addition to the “triple enclave” Daalla Kagobrie, there are 21 Bangladeshi enclaves located in the Indian enclaves, and 7 Indian enclaves are also surrounded by the Bangladeshi enclaves. The complicated double enclave situation is listed.

Overlapping enclaves means that going out to the door, or even walking a few steps at home, may cross borders and seamlessly switch between India and Bangladesh. In the eyes of tourists, this may be a unique attraction for travel, but to the more than 50,000 residents living in this broken land, the “enclave” is more like an invisible besieged city, forgotten by the government and isolated from the outside world. , It is difficult to escape.

Forgotten citizen
Broken roads, water pipes and grids that were interrupted at the entrance of the village… These incomplete infrastructures are now very common in the enclaves of two South Asian countries, telling them of their “forgotten”.

Since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, India and Pakistan, as well as Bangladesh, which became independent in 1971, have been in a state of tension for a long time. If a country wants to go to its own enclave for census, administrative management or infrastructure construction, it often needs to enter another country. However, in the past 60 years or so, officials from India or Bangladesh have often encountered difficulties when entering the enclave. During periods of tension between the two sides, politicians and the people even believed that as long as officials from another country are allowed to enter, it is Violation of its own territory.

/ If you want to have a legal visa, you need to cross the national borders to the embassy or consulate in the country to apply for it. /

Over the long term, the connection between the homeland and the enclave has weakened. Those marginal and remote lands and residents were gradually forgotten by the rulers. Even with the modernization of India and Bangladesh in the border areas, the laying of infrastructure such as water circuit networks was put on the agenda, but due to lack of coordination, the construction of these facilities stopped abruptly when they reached the border of the enclave. General living guarantees such as water, electricity, communication networks, public medical care, and public education are hard to reach for enclave residents.

In the area on the border of India and Bangladesh, around the 4000-kilometer winding border, there are densely distributed 198 enclaves.

Buying materials and finding jobs is also a difficult problem. The area of ​​the enclave is cramped, and it is very possible to buy daily necessities in shops in neighboring countries. Although most of the time free movement can be achieved inside and outside the enclave, there are a large number of fences and border checkpoints along the borders of India and Bangladesh, which have tensions, which increase the difficulty of movement. When traveling from Bangladesh to India, giving the guard a few dollars may be a fluke, but it is very likely to become “no return”: statistics show that more than 75% of the residents of the Bangladesh enclave do not have valid travel documents. Under the circumstances, they were arrested when they entered Indian territory, even though they were only to meet basic living needs or find a job. If you want to have a legal visa, you need to cross the national borders and go to the embassy or consulate in the country to apply for it. Invisibly, the residents of the enclave are stuck in an endless loop that is difficult to get out of.

In the book “The Art of Escape from Domination”, American anthropologist Scott described the initiative of the Southeast Asian mountain peoples to choose living environments and methods that are difficult to penetrate by the state, in order to evade the country’s labor taxes and build a self-government “no state space “.

Residents in the enclaves on the border between India and Bangladesh seem to live in such a “stateless space”: they speak the same language and eat the same food, no matter what the politicians in Dhaka or New Delhi are talking about, their own lives It is the overlap of barrenness and desertion.

Real life is far from the advanced level described in books, and it is difficult to call it “art”. The mirror image of South Asia more reflects the abuses of anarchy. Enclaves with a large number and complex structure, under the entanglement between the two countries, not only lack of infrastructure and public services, but also lack of daily life security, and even the construction of judicial and public security systems is basically in a blank state.

There is no police station to maintain social order and no judicial institution to punish violent crimes. These overlapping enclaves are regarded by criminals as a refuge from the police. Residents in enclaves outside of the national order not only need to endure the lack of life, but also face the danger of their lives. They often become targets of oppression by political elites, gangs, criminals, and even the people of neighboring countries.

Wandering home
Those in power far away in the “chaotang” occasionally realized the obstacles enclaves had caused to national governance and tried to negotiate and resolve the enclave issue, but the process of reaching an agreement was very long.

The mosque is the only solid building inside the enclave on the border between India and Bangladesh. Due to the uncertainty of enclave life, no one wants to spend time and energy to build other permanent buildings

In 1958 and 1974, India successively signed the “Land Boundary Agreement” for the exchange of enclaves with Pakistan and the newly independent Bangladesh. However, after the agreement was signed in 1974, it was not passed in the Indian Parliament, so the enclave exchange has not taken effect and been implemented.

In order to provide a good education to their children, many enclave parents send their children to public schools through bribery and forgery of documents.

From the perspective of India’s refusal to pass the agreement, from the perspective of its immediate interests, the agreement stipulates that “the gains and losses of the territory are not considered” to exchange enclaves, but the area of ​​India’s enclave in Bangladesh is much larger than that of Bangladesh in India. “Exchange” is a loss; from the perspective of national sentiment, those Indian people who believe in Hinduism also believe that reaching an agreement with an Islamic country is unacceptable.

The turning point came in 2015. In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Modi, won the general election. India’s long-held “non-aligned” foreign policy has undergone adjustments. In the context of a series of foreign policies, consultations with Bangladesh to resolve the enclave issue were once again on the agenda.

On August 19, 2015, a villager waded across the river. Neither India nor Bangladesh want to use resources to develop enclave infrastructure

Soon after the Modi government took office, it quickly passed the “Land Boundary Agreement” signed in 1974 in Parliament. On June 6, 2015, during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, he exchanged an agreement with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Hasina, and the enclave issue that had been shelved for many years was finally resolved in a historic manner.

On August 19, 2015, 70-year-old Dhonobala Rani cried bitterly. In a few months she will obtain Indian citizenship, while her relatives (the man in the blue shirt) choose to stay in Bangladesh

According to the agreement, India handed over 111 enclaves with a total area of ​​17,000 hectares in Bangladesh to Bangladesh, and Bangladesh exchanged 51 enclaves with a total area of ​​7,000 hectares in India to India. Residents in the enclave can choose their own nationality. If they choose to join the nationality of a neighboring country, they will continue to stay in the residence where they have lived for generations; if they choose to retain their original nationality, they must accept migration and return to the mainland to resettle.

Residents of Bangladeshi enclaves in India have chosen to join Indian citizenship. To the surprise of the Indian government, fewer than 1,000 Indian enclave residents in Bangladesh chose to retain their Indian citizenship, while others chose to stay in Bangladesh, which is more economically underdeveloped. To a certain extent, this also reflects that the enclave’s shaping of residents’ national and social identity, generational isolation from the locals, frequent land exchanges, and inter-regional intermarriage are gradually weakening the residents’ sense of belonging to the original country.

After the agreement was signed, the infrastructure that had not been moved for many years was also put on the agenda of the two governments. The Indian cabinet stated that it will invest US$150 million to help former enclaves improve their lives and promote the normal development of the enclave; Bangladesh has pledged to invest US$22.9 million in the construction and development of the enclave, including the construction of bridges, roads, water pipes, and water pipes. Shops, mosques, community centers, etc. The once forgotten land finally feels the existence of the “state”.

On August 22, 2015, out of 22 families living in Ponchoki Bhajini village in the Kutch-Bihar region, 20 families (left) will move to India, and the others will choose to become citizens of Bangladesh

But the process of reintegration was not so smooth. Five years after the signing of the agreement, the enclave residents who chose to retain their Indian nationality returned to the mainland. They are still being resettled in several centralized settlements designated by the government, and protests have occurred from time to time. The government’s promise to “help them live a normal life again” has not been fulfilled. The houses in the enclave cannot be exchanged for valid land certificates. The residents of the enclaves who have migrated over lack sufficient work skills and can only rely on odd jobs to sustain them. livelihood. These people who have been wandering for a long time, even if they return to the so-called “country”, still cannot find their roots.

The original enclave is still slow to keep up with modernization. Complete infrastructure and public services have not yet arrived. Although local officials said that various supporting facilities will be “gradually improved”, for villagers suffering from heart disease and other diseases, the current shortage of medical services and the body with long alarms, I don’t know if I can wait for the perfect moment.

Vague exception
Nested enclaves not only appear on the borders of South Asia, but also on the Arabian Peninsula-Nahwa, which is surrounded by Oman’s enclave in the UAE, Madha, and belongs to the UAE’s secondary enclave. This land presents an exception, showing the story of the coexistence of residents and national boundaries.

The enclave Madha, which enters Oman from the UAE, will not pass through any border facilities such as barbed wire, outposts, and does not require a visa or passport. The most obvious reminder is that the mobile phone will receive a text message from Etisalat, expressing welcome Come to the UAE and wish safe travel in Oman.

/ In the Indian enclave of Bangladesh, less than 1,000 people chose to retain their Indian nationality. /

Going further to the middle of Madha is the Nahwa enclave in the UAE. On an area of ​​5 square kilometers, there are two small villages, New Nakhwa and Old Nakhwa. There are less than 100 houses, including police stations, health centers, primary schools, sports centers, small playgrounds, grocery stores, farms and other facilities that can provide firefighting and ambulance services. The UAE city of Khorfakkan manages and provides public services.

Local residents will not notice the existence of national borders in their daily lives. “I don’t think too much. I went to Oman to play football this week. We build a family together. Only our mobile phones are different.” The son of Chief Nahwa, Halifan, sees the relationship between the two enclaves like this.

Inevitably, there are occasional conflicts between Madha and Nakhwa on the demarcation of borders, such as the ownership of a certain mountain, such as which side can mine honey and wood, etc., but the residents on both sides of the border do not care about these differences between the borders. . The concept of “national boundary” is often associated with sovereign states in the modern sense, but on the Arabian Peninsula, similar religious cultures and a society centered on clan tribes have blurred the “national boundary” in this enclave.