Fazle Karim Miah (in white kurta) in Char Balabhoot (Main Uddin Chisti)
Main Uddin Chisti, TT, Cooch Behar, April 28: The residents of the former Bangladeshi enclave of Char Balabhoot had no hopes of politicians campaigning in the area as the remote settlement on the sandbanks of the Kaljani river has only eight voters.
But today, Trinamul nominee of Tufanganj Assembly seat, Fazle Karim Miah, took a boat ride under the scorching sun to visit them.
Most of the former 51 Bangladeshi enclaves that merged with the Indian mainland after July 31, 2015, are in Dinhata, Mekhliganj, Sitalkuchi and Sitai Assembly segments. Char Balabhoot is the only former enclave in Tufanganj. The area has only 11 residents, including eight voters.
The first-time voters in Char Balabhoot were surprised that a candidate visited them. “I am 55-years-old and I am getting the opportunity to cast my vote for the first time. We had not expected anyone to come and ask for our votes as we are only eight voters. Today, we were surprised that the Trinamul candidate paid us a visit. At least he experienced the difficulty to reach our area,” said farmer Habibur Rehman.
One has to take 40km-bus ride from Cooch Behar town, a ferry across the Kaljani river and a 300m walk to reach the small settlement with three families.
According to Cooch Behar district magistrate, P. Ulaganathan, the total number of voters in the former enclaves was 9,776 of which, 569 were settlers from the former Indian enclaves in Bangladesh who have now settled here.
“Of the former enclave dwellers, there are 5,486 voters in Dinhata, 576 in Mekhliganj, 1,898 in Sitalkuchi and 1,241 in Sitai Assembly constituencies. The former enclave of Char Balabhoot has only eight voters,” Ulaganathan said.
The polling station for the eight voters is across the river, about 3km away at Balabhoot Primary School.
“Those who live in the former enclaves in Dinhata, like Mashaldanga, are getting all the attention from the candidates along with promises. We have no power and no roads. The nearest health centre is across the river, 7km away at Balabhoot Bazar,” said farmer Kamiruddin Sheikh.
Fazle Karuim Miah said Char Balabhoot was always on his radar. “I went there for the first time today. I should have gone before. Our panchayat functionaries have been in touch with the residents and extended all help in getting them enrolled in the voters’ list.”