The newly minted citizens will exercise their democratic rights after a 71-year wait
The newly made Bangladeshi citizens of 36 former exclaves in Panchagarh are eagerly waiting to vote in the upcoming 11th general election.
After living 68 years under the exclave and 3 years of citizenship, they will vote for the first time in 71 years on December 30.
After receiving the citizenship, their dream of exercising universal franchise is going to be fulfilled very soon, said Panchagarh Election Officer Mohammad Ashraful Alam.
“The new Bangladeshi citizens will vote for the first time this year. There is a festive atmosphere among them,” he said.
Towachhuddin, a resident of the Boda upazila of Panchagarh (former Shalbari exclave) is at least 100 years old and has never voted in his life. He said he does not even know how to vote and this will be his first time voting.
Afsaruddin, also a centenarian of the same exclave, said: “I have been witnessing elections for the last 68 years but I could not vote. Even if it is difficult for me, I will go to the polling centre and cast my ballot this time.”
Not only Towachhuddin and Afsaruddin, but around 8,935 new Bangladeshis of the 36 former exclaves in the district will vote for the first time in the polls, scheduled to be held Sunday.
Panchagarh Election Officer Mohammad Ashraful Alam said there are seven former exclaves in the Panchagarh 1 constituency and 29 former exclaves in Panchagarh 2.
In the Panchagarh 1 constituency, there are 1,025 voters. Out of which, 527 are male and 498 are female.
Meanwhile, in the 29 former exclaves of the Panchagarh 2 constituency, there are 6,220 voters. Out of which, 3,275 are male voters and 2,794 are female.
Sirajul Islam of the former Shalbari exclave said that he did not have a country, nor did he have the right to vote.
“I got citizenship towards the very end of my life. Enormous development has taken place. We will vote for the first time and we will go to vote in numbers. It feels great to be able to vote after 71 years,” he said.
On July 31, 2015, in the light of the Mujib-Indira Treaty of 1974, the land border agreement was implemented and the 36 exclaves were added to Panchagarh. More than 20,000 people of the former exclaves received the Bangladeshi citizenship.