SC notice on excluding India-Bangladesh enclaves’ residents

New Delhi, Sep 24 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the central and West Bengal governments on a petition that said residents of enclaves exchanged between India and Bangladesh were wrongly excluded during a survey in 2011.

The bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda issued notice to the external affairs ministry and the home ministry after counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for NGO Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, said the affected people were eligible residents of enclaves on both sides of the border but were wrongly excluded from the 2011 survey, thereby leaving them in a stateless position.

The counsel told the court that after the 2011 survey, there was no forum to raise objections to their exclusion.

Former judge of the Sikkim High Court and the Calcutta High Court Justice Malay Sengupta is the chairman of the NGO.

Supporting the recent exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh, Gonsalves contested the veracity of the 2011 survey and another exercise undertaken in July 2015, saying “no formal survey was conducted” and the lists were drawn up on the basis of “ad hoc intelligence reports”.

The petition by the NGO and some of the affected residents says: “The people were never consulted and have no idea at all as to when the so called survey was conducted. The survey lists are kept top secret.”

The “bonafide” residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border whom Gonsalves said the NGO had personally spoken to claimed that they have now learnt that certain officials visited their areas from July 6, 2015 onwards and the names of many of them were not included in the lists even though they were bonafide residents and were living there since long.

Responding to a query by the court as to “who are these people”, Gonsalves said the list was drawn up by local organisations and the petitioner NGO held meetings with them and verified evidence supporting their claim of being bonafide residents of the enclaves but were excluded from the surveyed list.

Describing the exclusion as because of “inadequate clarity and transparency” on the vital issue, the petition described it as a “violation of their human rights”.

The NGO and the affected people urged the court to direct the central government to “disclose the list of eligible residents of the enclaves on both sides of the border and to give an opportunity to those who claim that their names have been illegally and wrongly omitted to make a representation to the authorities”.

The petition also sought direction to the government to consider representations of the enclave dwellers and pass reasoned orders accepting or rejecting them in accordance with law.

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