Asgar Ali, possibly the oldest first-time voter in India died in his family home on Sunday. Born in 1913, Ali held a rare record of sorts by being a resident of three nations.
He achieved this unique mark last year when he opted for Indian citizenship following a historic bilateral land-exchange agreement and voted for the first time in Cooch Behar during the West Bengal Assembly elections. Ali had been a resident of East Pakistan, Bangladesh and, finally, India.
It is notable that Ali was one of 9,776 residents of a Bangladeshi enclave in India, who opted for Indian citizenship last year.
Â”He died peacefully in his sleep at 5 am. He had not suffered and frankly, he was at peace after he was finally declared an Indian citizen,” said Ali’s brother, Shah Jahan.
Jahan told The Indian Express that a milestone that marked the territory as Bangladesh still stood in the middle of the fields that Ali and his family owned — it is now obscured by the village’s first pucca home.
Ali had lived all his life at Madhya Mashaldanga, a part of East Pakistan and later a Bangladeshi enclave in Cooch Behar district of the northern part of West Bengal.
It became a part of India after the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement under which Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 adversely held enclaves on August 1, 2015. A total 14,864 residents of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves became Indian citizens.
Naushar Ali Mian (50), Ali’s nephew, alleged that even though their one-bigha plot was fertile, they continued to be neglected by the state government.
“The state government had made a number of promises, from solar panels to free rice. But we didn’t get any of these things. Moreover, the problems faced by us are compounded by the inherent dislike that people here have for us ‘chhit bashinda’ (enclave residents),” he said.