Despite all their woes, the residents of the 51 former Bangladeshi enclaves in West Bengal's Cooch Behar district exercised their franchise in a peaceful manner amid instances of sporadic violence in the region on Thursday.
Braving the heat, about 12,000 voters from the erstwhile enclaves, a small proportion of the over 18 lakh electorate in the Cooch Behar constituency, queued up since morning to cast their vote and at the same time air their grievances.
The dwellers have been complaining of a dearth of jobs, while many of those who chose to migrate to Cooch Behar from the Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory are yet to get their promised land and are forced to stay in detention camps.
"Unlike the panchayat elections, the situation was peaceful today (Thursday). I did not face any difficulty in casting my vote though I had to stand in queue for about half an hour in the morning," said Brijendra Nath Burman, a 68-year-old resident of the Falnapur enclave.
Even after exercising his franchise, Burman, who underwent decades of deprivation, was uncertain whether the promises of giving land rights, jobs for youth and demand for better health, education and basic amenities would be realised.
On August 1, 2015, following the implementation of the historic Land Boundary Agreement, Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 adversely held enclaves. As a result, over 14,000 residents of Bangladeshi enclaves became Indian citizens.
The erstwhile dwellers had earlier voted twice in 2016 -- in the state Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha by-poll.
Gaining confidence after seeing central forces in the polling booth, Tozzammal Seikh, a 62-year-old dweller from Masaldanga, expressed his satisfaction after casting his vote peacefully and felt happy to be a part of the largest festival of democracy in the world.
"There was enthusiasm among the voters who queued up in the morning. There was no incident of violence," said Madan Roy, a Trinamool Congress polling agent and a dweller of Bakhalitchhora enclave.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, accused the ruling Trinamool of indulging in rigging in 3-4 booths.
"Polls were more or less peaceful but there were sporadic violence when Trinamool goons jammed 3-4 booths and rigged the polls in the enclave areas," said Diptiman Sengupta, BJP's Jalpaiguri district observer and Convenor of the Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee (BBEECC).
The north Bengal constituency witnessed a four-cornered contest between Paresh Adhikary of Trinamool, Nisith Pramanik of the BJP, Piya Roychowdhury of the Congress and Gobinda Roy of the All India Forward Bloc. However, the real battle here is between the BJP and the Trinamool.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)