Kolkata, May 5 (IANS) National Award winning filmmaker Goutam Ghose says the dwellers of the erstwhile enclaves, who exercised their voting rights for the first time on Thursday as Indian citizens, “were all like Toba Tek Singhs for many years”, referring to Pakistani writer Sadat Hasan Manto’s famed short story set against the backdrop of Partition.
He described Thursday as “D-Day” for the over 9,000 first-time voters who included three centenarians.
Ghose recently won the National Award for India-Bangladesh joint production “Shankhachil” which revolves around the pain and anguish of living along the border after the partition of Bengal.
“There are many documentaries made on the subject. They don’t belong to any country… Ait’s a non-man’s land. I remember a great story by Manto… Toba Tek Singh… they were all Toba Tek Singhs for many, many years,” Ghose told IANS.
Published in 1955, Manto’s short story “Toba Tek Singh” is about inmates in a Lahore asylum (in Pakistan), some of whom are to be transferred to India following Partition in 1947.
Altogether 9,776 erstwhile enclave dwellers, including 567 who have opted for India from the former Indian enclaves — now part of Bangladesh — are registered as first-time voters. Most of them exercised their franchise for the first time in Cooch Behar in the final phase of the West Bengal assembly polls during the day.
They are spread across five constituencies — Dinhata (5,486 voters), Mekhliganj (988), Sitai (1,396), Sitalkuchi (1,898) and Tufanganj (8).
Following the implementation of the historic Land Boundary Agreement, Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves on August 1, 2015.
“It’s D-Day for them because they were in enclaves for so many years. It’s very strange that for so many years we have not done anything for them, but it’s great that recently they won their freedom,” Ghose added.