India's new 'enclave' citizens in historic first vote

Thousands of people living in enclaves along the Bangladesh border have voted for the first time in India after remaining virtually stateless for six decades.

They became citizens of India last year after Bangladesh and India exchanged more than 160 enclaves located in each other's territory. The enclaves, created in the 18th Century, endured through British colonial rule, the independence of India and the creation of Bangladesh.

On Thursday, the new citizens got their first taste of democracy when they voted in the West Bengal state assembly elections.

Photojournalist Ronny Sen captured the historic occasion.

The 103-year-old first-time voter

Asgar Ali (centre) is 103 years old and voted for the first time in Moshaldanga in Cooch Behar district. Three generations of his family, including his son and grandson, accompanied him to the polling booth. His grandson Jaynal Abedin was keen to mark the occasion with a selfie.

'Freedom after 200 years'

Abdul Mannan, 61, is a resident of Poaturkuthi, the largest enclave with 1,800 voters. He said three generations of his family lived and died there without an official identity for nearly two centuries. "Today, after nearly 200 years, we got freedom. We have an identity. We had nothing earlier," he said.

'Finally included'

Maksedul Hoque, 29, said he would often feel left out when his friends from mainland India would talk about politics and elections. "It's something I grew up watching but was never a part of, and that made me feel excluded," he told the BBC. Now after voting, he says he feels more empowered and included. He wants the candidate he voted for to build new roads, hospitals, schools and create jobs for young people.

'Excited to vote'

Bashanti Shil, 90, came to the polling booth with her grandson Sudama Shil, who is 30. She said she was "very excited" to vote and hoped that participating in elections would bring prosperity and happiness to her family members and everyone in the enclave of Moshaldanga.

A part of the process

Mizanur Rahman, 37, and his wife Arjina Aktar, 20, excitedly show off their new voting ID cards. Mr Rahman said he wasn't allowed to vote in Bangladesh but saw political campaigns and always wanted to be a part of the process. He said he wanted politicians to fulfil promises to bring growth and prosperity to the region. He added that he hoped for free movement of people between the Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves.

Voting for development

Rokeya Bibi (right), 20, went to the polling booth with her mother-in-law Majia Bibi. "I want schools and colleges in this area so that my children don't have to travel far," Rokeya Bibi said.

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