Cooch Behar: Enclaves, counter-enclaves, counter-counter-enclaves…

Indo-Bangladesh enclaves

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Simplified map of part of the border area, near 26°15′43″N 88°45′6″E, showing some of the larger Indian enclaves in Bangladesh. There are many smaller enclaves in this region which are not shown.

More complete map of the exclaves. Top of the map is east, India is orange and Bangladesh is cyan.

The Indo-Bangladesh enclaves, also known as the chitmahals (Bengali: ছিটমহল) are the enclaves along the Bangladesh–India border, in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.

There are 102 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 71 Bangladeshi ones inside India, with a combined population between 50,000 to 100,000. Inside those enclaves are also 28 counter-enclaves and one counter-counter-enclave.[1]

In September 2011, the Prime Ministers of the two countries (Manmohan Singh of India and Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh) signed an accord on border demarcation and exchange of adversely held enclaves. Under this agreement, the enclave residents may continue residing at their present location or move to the country of their choice.[2]



The enclaves were used as stakes in card or chess games centuries ago between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Maharaja of Rangpur.[3] The little territories were the result of a confused outcome of a treaty between the Kingdom of Koch Bihar and the Mughal Empire.[4]

After the partition of India in 1947, Cooch Behar district was merged with India and Rangpur went to then East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. In 1974, both countries agreed either to exchange the enclaves or at least to provide easy access to the enclaves, but little materialised. Talks between the two countries on the issue resumed in 2001, but the lack of a concrete time frame relegated the issue to the back burner.

The residents of the enclaves live in abysmal conditions, with a lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and medicines. Crime also is rampant, as complaining would mean crossing the international boundary due to the lack of law enforcement resources. Residents of the enclaves may go to their respective countries only on the production of an identity card, after seeking permission from the border guards, causing much resentment. Recently the countries have moved towards an agreement to absorb the enclaves, but the resulting nationality of the current residents remains an impediment as it could have implications for border disputes in other parts of the region.[5]

In September 2011, the governments of India and Bangladesh announced an intention to resolve the issue by means of swapping 162 enclaves, giving residents a choice of nationality.[6][7]

Example enclaves

Bangladesh exclaves

DohogramAngorpotha (Teen Bigha Corridor): A Bangladeshi exclave administrated Pathgram upzila in Lalmonirhat zila lies within the Indian province of West Bengal. The exclave has an area of 25 km2 (10 sq mi) with a resident population of 20,000 people. The exclave lacks all facilities. The lone health complex remains virtually useless for lack of power supply, as India refused to allow Bangladesh to run power lines to the exclave.

The land was actually leased indefinitely to Bangladesh so that they could access the Dehgram–Angalpota enclaves.

Indian exclaves

Dasiarchhara lies 3 km (2 mi) from India and has an area of 7 km² (3 sq mi).

Census Report by Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Co-ordination Committee, 31 July 2010: Total population 9,510; male 4,941, female 4,569; Hindu 640, Muslim 8,870; cultivator 2,426, non-cultivator 840. Total land 1,643.44 acres. Literate 4,148. Disabled 6. With Indian EPIC 193; with BD EPIC 1,173. Under 5 years 378; 6 to 18 years 1,072.


  1. ^ White, Brendan R. (2002). “Waiting for the esquimo: An historical and documentary study of the Cooch Behar enclaves of India and Bangladesh”. The School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies, The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 2011-9-11.
  2. ^ Sougata Mukhopadhyay (2011-09-07). “India-Bangladesh sign pact on border demarcation”. CNN-IBN. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  3. ^ “A Great Divide”. Time. 2009-02-05.
  4. ^ Evgeny Vinokurov, “Theory of Enclaves” (2005) – Chapter 6: Enclave stories and case studies, page 117: Cooch Behar
  5. ^ “The land that maps forgot”. The Economist. 2011-02-15.
  6. ^ “Bangladesh, India to swap 162 land parcels”. AFP. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  7. ^ “Hope for Indo-Bangladesh enclaves”. NDTV. 12 September 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2011.

External links




Territorial disputes in East, South, and Southeast Asia

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