A group of youth, who alerted the world to the plight of people in the India-Bangladesh enclaves by uniting under the ‘Facebook Fighters’ banner, are now busy raising a toast to their new found ‘freedom’.
As celebrations began at the stroke of midnight on Friday with the much-awaited exchange of enclaves (chhitmahals) between India and Bangladesh, the youth marked the momentous occasion online. Aged between 18 to 25 years, the youngsters who were residing in the enclaves on both sides of the border, rejoiced in the success of their massive online campaign by sporting white tee-shirts with the orange logo ‘ff’ signifying ‘Facebook Fighters’ with the initials of Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC) etched beneath.
United by internet and smartphones, the group includes members from all the 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India and has representations from the residents of Indian enclaves in Bangladesh. Be it Bishnu Barman, Rousan Sarkar, Jaynal Abedin or Atik Hassan Atik (whose family has opted for Bangladesh citizenship), Facebook proved to be a valuable and relatively inexpensive medium to get the word out across the border enclaves and connect with each other. Similar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in Dhaka’s Shahbag, social media like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp became a powerful tool for these youth to evolve a consensus on issues and virtually connect with members in neighbouring enclaves who had never met.
Facebook provided them a distinct identity at a time when they were in ‘nowhere land’. Now, with the historic swapping, they have in unison switched their Facebook profile pictures to the logo of their group ‘Facebook Fighters’. Some like Sarkar, who graduated from the Dinhata College in Coochbehar, West Bengal, proudly posted a picture of the Indian flag, an ode to his new found citizenship. On Friday midnight, around 52,000 inhabitants of 162 enclaves in Bangladesh and India got the taste of freedom for the first time in 68 years, officially becoming citizens of either of the two countries. It was also the moment when the tiny pockets of land — or enclaves — in each other’s territories got merged with their respective countries, bringing an end to one of the most complicated and confusing border disputes in the world.