An old man and a ghost village

When 67-year old Maulana Abu Syed Munshi, the Imam of Natun Majid at Thakuranbari village woke up on Wednesday, he was shell-shocked to find himself all alone in the village. The other villagers were nowhere to be seen. The 112 odd houses wore a deserted look, with not even a dog or a chicken in sight in the village that stretches for 1.5 kilometre.

Being a late riser, little did the wizened old man realise that all his neighbours had fled the village, which borders Bangladesh, fearing more "missile attacks." The first missile had struck the village at about 3 a.m. and an "undeclared war" had begun when Maulana Munshi was fast asleep. It was about 8 a.m. when he woke up to get the shock of his life on coming upon an empty village.

But Maulana had to pay a heavy price for his habit of late rising. For just as he got out of his house to enquire about the "sudden desertion," the splinter of a rocket propelled grenade struck his right arm, immediately rendering it useless. The Imam was found by BSF personnel late Wednesday evening lying unconscious in a pool of blood, all alone in the porch of his house. He has since been admitted at the Thakuranbari border outpost hospital.

Speaking to The Northeast Daily on Thursday from his hospital bed, a visibly shaken Abu Syed Munshi, said that he is yet to recover from Wednesday morning's trauma. "I came to know that fighting has broken out between India and Bangladesh only after I had recovered my senses here. Now all I can do is pray that the hostilities end soon," said Maulana Munshi just before he sat for his daily prayers. Doctors have told him that his right forearm, which has been paralysed after the attack, will have to be amputated.

Another victim of the war, 55-year old Forest Officer Abduss Sahid Sattar has lost his house while stray bullets hit his grand-daughter on her left leg, while he was trying to flee Pacheragram, his native village and one of the worst hit areas in the skirmish between the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and the Border Security Force (BSF).

Sattar had seen the Indo-Bangla war of 1971 from close quarters. But the horrors of the last two days have left him "completely shattered." Sattar, who is down with high-fever in the Mankachar civil hospital said, "I had earlier been a witness to the 1971 Indo-Bangla war. But those memories pale into insignificance when compared to the terrible trauma of the last two days."

He added: "The empty shells that I have seen prove that highly sophisticated and deadly weapons are being used by the BDR."

By SOUVIK CHOWDHURY (THAKURANBARI, Indo-Bangla border, APRIL 19)