The Gate at Bhogdanga La

For the villagers of Bhogdanga along the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Golakganj sector in Assam’s Dhubri district, their Indian citizenship lasts about six hours a day, in three two-hour stretches.

Surrounded by Bangladeshi territory on three sides, Bhogdanga’s only link with the rest of India is through an iron gate that is kept open for a total of six hours a day. The nearest bazaar is located about two kilometres away, in a place called Berbhangi on this side of the gate, where most of the villagers manage a living selling vegetable and rice. Missing the gate (and the BSF personnel posted there aren’t known to be too punctual) means not being able to go home in the evening, from India, to India. “We are estranged in our own country,” says a harassed Bilkanta Roy, one of the 900 people of Bhogdanga, who have to live with the irony of it all.

For the record, Bhodanga’s 400 voters are legitimate voters of India (a fast-decreasing breed in Assam, given the landless lot who come every day from Bangladesh), under the Gauripur Legislative Assembly Constituency of Assam.
“The BSF doesn’t maintain any sort of timing because of which we are often stranded on the other side,” says Sirazul Shikdar. That again, would be India.
And the iron gate, a requirement in international boundary enforcement, and the security forces at Bhogdanga aren’t the only problems the people of the village have to deal with. “The government is yet to provide us with a health-care centre,” says Hara Kumar Roy, another villager. Not to mention the ramshackle No. 708 Bhogdanga-Kuti Lower Primary School in the village where two teachers teach 80 students. Roy, for one, does not know the name of the president. Of India. The village also doesn’t have a grocery shop, or a post office.

The Goalpariya-speaking-that would be an amalgamation of Assamese and Bengali- village of Bhogdanga does have its high points though. Mostly, it comprises visits by relatives from the ‘other other side’, from Bangladesh, when evenings are spent eating panta bhaat, a combination of leftover rice and water, and talking about life there, and here, in the village that India forgot

By Ashiqure Rahman (newsfiledelhi@hotmail.com)