Citizens of Twelve Hours
They are Indian citizens. But their citizenship is limited to twelve hours only. They lose their citizenship for the twelve hours of the night. Thousands of Indian citizens living in Indian soil have been deprived of their citizenship for twelve hours daily for decades. The victims are residents of villages situated in the fringe area of about four thousand kilo metres long India-Bangladesh International Boundary Lines. There are more than 170 villages along the Indo- Bangla Boundary line right from Kolkata to Tripura. These villages could not be covered by the barbed-wire- fencing erected in the boundary line for technical reasons. The villages have been abandoned. So are the villagers. Everyday when clock strikes six the gates of the barbed wire fence got closed. The State of India abandons its own citizens living outside the fence for the rest of the time till the clock again strikes six in the morning. The gates of Indian State remain open for its citizens for just twelve hour of daytime.
After partition in 1947 there were unresolved boundary disputes between India and Pakistan. After the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India and President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh apparently resolved the disputes entering into a pact according to which there would remain one hundred metres of land between the border line of the two countries as 'No men's land' where no state would have any control. Following the pact no plan has been formulated or implemented for rehabilitation of the citizens who have been living in this abandoned NO MEN'S LAND. They too have been abandoned and ignored callously.
After the doors are closed at 6pm everyday darkness engulfs these villages as well as the minds of the villagers. They leave heir lives and property at the mercy of the thieves, dacoits, goons and other anti-social elements who regularly visit them, mostly from Bangladesh. No state provides them with any semblance of security of life and property. If anybody needs immediate medical attention in night there is no way other than to wait for the gates to open. If his condition does not permit to wait he has do succumb to death. For marriages and other social functions the villagers have to take prior permission from the concerned District Magistrate so the gates would open for the visitors to come back.
Veteran journalist Mrinal Talukdar of UNI made a short film of 20 minutes on the plight of such 'NO BODY'S MEN'. He shot this film at Lafsai and Jarapata, two such villages situated at Sutarkandi area of Indo-Bangla border in Karimganj district of Assam. He had to obtain clearance from Union Home Ministry for shooting there after an eight-and-half- month-long period. The film 'NO BODY'S MEN' has been included in the list of 13 movies selected for special viewing in he International Film Festival to be held from 4 to 9 February, 2008 in Mumbai. Mr. Talukdar has done a great job.
Barak Human Rights Protection Committee is contemplating to send a fact finding team to Sutarkandi. The Committee will act on the recommendations of the team to get full-time citizenship for the part time citizens.