Youngsters of former enclaves bank on internet to fight for rights

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Kolkata, May 5 (IANS) Rapturous with excitement after their first vote, a group of youngsters in the erstwhile enclaves of West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district have once again turned to the World Wide Web to fight for their rights.

The youths, who earlier alerted the world about the plight of former enclave dwellers through a massive social media campaign, are now voicing their concerns and needs through news portal

Jaynal Abedin and a host of others spread across Cooch Behar, state capital Kolkata and Bangladesh are partners in the fresh campaign.

“Now that the battle for citizenship has been won, we have shifted activities from our Facebook group to the information portal. It is helping us spread the word about our new journey of fighting for rights,” Abedin told IANS from Madhya Mashaldanga enclave in Dinhata assembly constituency.

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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 electors.

They cast their votes for the first time in Cooch Behar in the final phase of the assembly polls in Bengal on Thursday.

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.

Aged between 18 and 25 years, the youngsters who were residing in the enclaves on both sides of the border united on the Facebook Fighters page last year before the swap, to draw attention to the long-standing issue.

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Similar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in Dhaka’s Shahbag, social media like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, became a powerful tool for these youths to draw consensus on issues and virtually connect with members in neighbouring enclaves who had never met.

Facebook endowed them with a distinct identity at a time when they were in ‘nowhere land’.

In a momentous occasion on Thursday, Abedin voted with his father and grandfather, the 103-year-old Mohammad Ajgar Ali, in Dinhata.

“Some of our key demands include sorting land ownership matters, reservation in state government jobs and the chance to work for our own development.

“Through the portal we inform the public on various local issues as well as on national and international issues. We are connected with the former enclave residents who are now in Bangladesh,” Abedin said.

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A glance at the write-ups in Bengali show profiles of key candidates in the elections, their pros and cons, their expectations from the candidates among a steady stream of global subjects including terrorism.

“The stories are being shared on social media (Facebook) and we hope it reaches more and more people,” Abedin added.



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