South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a democratic regional network of human rights defenders, welcomes the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) which was ratified for implementation between the governments of Bangladesh and India on 7 June 2015. This agreement aims to address the statelessness of thousands of persons living in border enclaves.
SAHR commends the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India in taking the initiative to expedite the resolution of a contentious boundary issue regarding these islands of land which has prevailed since the partition of India in 1947.
The LBA pact swaps territories between the two countries to permanently fix the border which stretches about 4,000km along India’s eastern flank. Of the total 162 enclaves, a 111 will be transferred to Bangladesh and 51 to India. This would allow the estimated 50,000 people living in the enclaves to choose their nationality ending decades of statelessness.
SAHR expresses concern that the thousands of people living in the landlocked enclaves have thus far undergone considerable deprivation of their fundamental human rights, lacking access to many basic services such as schools, clinics or utility facilities due to their statelessness which cuts them off from both national governments.
SAHR believes that an expeditious implementation of the LBA is one way of compensating the affected population that has suffered innumerable hardships, only because the concerned political authorities failed to demonstrate sensitivity and leadership in resolving the issue decades earlier. SAHR hopes that both the Indian and the Bangladesh governments will facilitate implementation of this critical deal and ensure that the thousands living in enclaves are able to gain equal access to basic services and attain a more decent and equitable standard of living.
SAHR, also takes note of other agreements between the two countries such as the opening of Kolkatta-Dhaka-Agartala bus service, and hopes that the outcome of these agreements will have positive implications for the promotion and protection of human rights of the affected populations in both countries. However, SAHR continues to be concerned at the lack of any progress in resolving the dispute regarding the equitable sharing of all international rivers in particular the Teesta which is affecting the quality of life and livelihoods of many.
SAHR reminds all South Asian governments that several border issues in the region require immediate attention and
speedy resolution to improve the situation of people of this region, who confront serious violations of their rights as a
consequence of these persisting issues. SAHR invites governments in the region for a dialogue with civil society groups
to identify and understand the issues and to find human rights compliant solutions to resolve them.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights
Hina Jilani Dr. Nimalka Fernando