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Erstwhile enclave dwellers in border area denied land rights in Cooch Behar district

Sujoy Singh Roy, Assistant Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission:

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This is to bring your attention to the land registration problem in Nalgram erstwhile enclave under Mathabhanga Sub-Division, Sitalkuchi Block and Sitalkuchi Police Station in the district of Cooch Behar.
Since the exchange of erstwhile enclaves among India and Bangladesh vide the Land Boundary Agreement, 2015, the erstwhile enclave dwellers of Cooch Behar have been neglected and promises made to them during the agreement by the Indian government have been outwardly denied. The erstwhile enclave dwellers were not granted citizenship yet even after eight years of the Land Boundary Agreement, 2015. Most of them were not provided their land titles by the government. Even when some were given land documents, almost all of those are faulty documents. The development initiatives taken by the government in the erstwhile enclaves, right after the Land Boundary Agreement, 2015, soon came to a halt. The promises made to the erstwhile enclave dwellers, while undertaking the development initiatives were also not kept by the Indian government.
After the Land Boundary Agreement, 2015 in the year 2016 the district administration surveyed the land of erstwhile enclave dwellers. During that time the government officials recorded the land in faulty manner and as a result one’s land was recorded in another’s name; some lands were not recorded or even some lands records are erroneous.
Mr. Ajijar Miah, is an aged erstwhile Bangladeshi enclave dweller who is residing in the Nalgram Khanda (Fragment) erstwhile enclave. For more than 25 years he possessed a total 3.25 decimal of land among which 1.32 decimal are vastu and 1.93 decimal are agricultural land. In 2017 when Block Land and Land Revenue Officer, Sitalkuchi Block came to the spot and surveyed the land, somehow they made a mistake to record the land which was owned and possessed by Mr. Ajijar Miah.
After that on 30th October 2018, the Chief Minister of West Bengal announced that her government will distribute lands to the actual owners at erstwhile enclave and on 15th November 2018; Government of West Bengal introduced a bill in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly to execute the decision. Subsequently, the West Bengal Government passed West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018 by inserting sub section (3B) in section 2 of West Bengal Land Reforms Act, where the State Government expressed to deliver land rights to the actual owner of the lands as the legal name ‘Raiyat’. Finally, notification was issued on 2nd January 2019 that from 3rd January, 2019 the West Bengal Government will distribute ‘Khatian’ of those landed properties. They were provided with khasra Khatian (Record of Rights) but most of it was full of mistakes.
But surprisingly, Mr. Ajijar Miah did not get any record of rights (khatian) of his property which was owned and possessed by him and his family members for more than 25 years.
On 05.02.2019 Block Land and Land Revenue Officer, Sitalkuchi Block issued one notice to the erstwhile enclave dwellers for submission of their objection if they find any mistake in the issued Khatian in connection with their concerned land. On 06.02.2019 Mr. Ajijar Miah submitted his objection by filing Form no. 9 (objection under sub section (1) of section 51A of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955) vide objection number NK/B/86. In the objection he mentioned that he has total 3.25 decimal of land under Nalgram Khanda village (J.L. No. 069) of Sitalkuchi Block but after survey the concerned administration did not provide him the record of rights (Khatian) of his above-mentioned property.
After one month a hearing was held in the office of the Block Land and Land Reforms Officer, Sitalkuchi Block. On that day Mr. Ajijar Miah submitted relevant documents before the Block Land and Land Reforms Officer, Sitalkuchi Block. Mr. Miah submitted one sale deed which was executed in the office of the Patgram Sub Registry Office, Bangladesh by Md. Sultan Miah in the name of Mr. Ajijar Miah dated 13.09.1984. A copy of the said sale deed vide no. 5446 dated 13.09.1984 is annexed herewith for your kind consideration. But the concerned BL & LRO, Sitalkuchi Block did not take any positive steps in this regard. Mr. Ajijar Miah is knocking the doors of administrative offices to get the record of rights (Khatian) of his owned and possessed property. On 19.09.2022 Mr. Miah again submitted one written application to the Block Land and Land Reforms Officer, Sitalkuchi Block but no positive steps have been taken in this regard by the concerned BL & LRO office.
Following I provide the details of the land owned and possessed by Mr. Ajijar Miah which was not recorded by the concerned administration:
After the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), 2015, Mr. Ajijar Miah did not receive any benefits from the social security schemes of the Central or State Government. He had received a job card under MGNREGA project but he was not provided with 100 days work under MGNREGA project and without getting any unemployment compensation. Section 7(3) of the MGNREGA Act provides that the State Government is liable to pay compensation for cease of work within a full term of 100 days. As till date he did not get the land titles and record of rights (khatian) of his land, he did not receive the benefit of the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kishan Nidhi Prakalpa’ or ‘Kishan Bandhu Prakalpa’.
The total process of land distribution is with loads of ambiguity and in actual terms, depriving the erstwhile enclave dwellers from ownership of their own land and an infringement on their righteous possession over inherited/ accumulated landed property. These acts are against the recommendation of the Standing Committee of Parliament on External Affairs (Report on the Constitution 119th Amendment Bill) in connection with the enclave matter.
In this connection I request to your urgent intervention with following demands:
· Immediately take necessary steps to provide the record of rights (Khatian) to Mr. Ajijar Miah.
· Take positive action against the BL&LRO Sitalkuchi Block, who did not take any positive steps on the written objection of Mr. Ajijar.
· Inquiry must be done by the independent agency for digging out the fact whether there was any ill-intention of the administration for not providing the record of rights (khatian) in connection with the land owned and possessed by Mr. Ajijar Miah.
· Immediate steps should be undertaken to ensure developmental activities in erstwhile enclaves.
· Directed to start 100 days work under MGNREGA project and Mr. Ajijar Miah should be provided with a job under MGNREGA project.
· Benefits of ‘Pradhan Mantri Kishan Nidhi Prakalpa’ and ‘Krishak Bandhu Prakalpa’ should be immediately provided to Mr. Ajijar Miah.
· Promises made during the Land Boundary Agreement, 2015 for the erstwhile enclave dwellers must be fulfilled.
· Mr. B.B. Mishra, Special Rapporteur of NHRC submitted his report and recommendation on erstwhile enclave dwellers and NHRC sent that to the West Bengal Government long back. Why was that report and recommendations not considered by the Cooch Behar district administration? The report and recommendations of Special Rapporteur Mr. B.B.Mishra should be adhered to.

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