On the Borderline: A tour to Bijaypur on poll day

On the Borderline: A tour to Bijaypur on poll day

Biswabrata Goswami

BIJAYPUR (NADIA), 17 APRIL: Among few-odd polling booths which are close to the India-Bangladesh border in the Krishnaganj assembly constituency, the Bijaypur polling station stands out. This is the only polling booth in the constituency which is located at a place where no fence has been erected between India and Bangladesh land.

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The polling booth is basically located at the ‘zero point’ while the government is trying hard to fill the gap by erecting fence. The government had approached to the local residents that they would properly rehabilitate them along with money if they leave the place. But, local residents didn’t agree and hence the government could not erect fence at this site.

Deprived of basic amenities, life for the voters of Bijaypur has always been difficult from those who live far from the International border. But, since they are living generation from generation, most of the villagers preferred to compromise with the difficulties rather than shifting to safe place.

The narrow strip of land is surrounded by villages like Kamardanga under Chuadanga district in Bangladesh. Mathabhanga river has separated them from Bangladesh land but a high volume of informal trade, mostly cattle and goods of everyday use, takes place across the India-Bangladesh land border, frequently with the tacit consent of anti-smuggling enforcement agencies.

Playing an endless cat-and-mouse game, the Indian BSF border guards run behind “infiltrators” or “smugglers”, and sometimes even goats and hens that stray from one rural landholding in Bangladesh to the adjoining one in India. Migrants, traders, smugglers and locals visiting family or friends nevertheless subvert the border on a daily basis with the support of borderland people on both sides.

A short trip at this village on the poll day has revealed that a combination of political and economic factors, including local insurrections, religious persecution, social insecurity, governmental apathy and environmental issues, sustains the steady flow of irregular migrants from Bangladesh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has played a crucial role in raising “unchecked illegal infiltration” as a national issue. The BJP’s Election Manifesto for 2014 addressed the issue of “illegal immigration across the eastern border” under the theme “Secure Indians – Zero Tolerance on Terrorism, Extremism and Crime”.

The border is likely to be further politicised with the update of the National Population Register (NPR), seeking to detect and remove “foreigners” from the state’s electoral rolls.

Under this circumstance, this year’s assembly election is being held while the villagers living in border villages like Bijaypur are interestingly reluctant to address the ‘issue’.

PIC: First-time voter, Sumi Majumdar

“We live here since many years and local panchayats and government know us very well. We don’t bother the issue, “said Ratan Das, a septuagenarian adding that “I hope new government will provide social security and amenities to us. If we get such benefits, we will be pleased.”

Like him, a new voter, Sumi Majumdar, said, “We live peacefully and there is no violence in the area. BSF jawans guard them well. As a new voter, she has no special demands before the government.”

Naturally, polling passed off peaceful today with over 80 percents out of 912 voters at 88/21 booth turned up at 5 pm.  

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