For Sorimari villagers AGP is a 'seedling'

It is strange but true. But even at the dawn of the 21st century there are people in the state for whom the AGP is a kind of "beej," (a seedling), the Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta is "something unknown" to them, and Mahatma Gandhi is the "father" of Indira Gandhi.

Tucked away in a remote corner of Dhubri district and delicately perched on the tri-junction of the Assam-Meghalaya and Indo-Bangladesh borders, lies the sleepy hamlet of Sorimari under South Salmara sub-division. For the 450-500 odd people of this village who are steeped in abject ignorance, the struggle for sustenance has always been of primary importance. Keeping themselves up-to-date about the outside world is the last thing on their minds.

With no electricity and no hospital, the village that comprises 85-90 dwellings which stretches for 2.5 kilometres, literally languishes in the dark ages. Village quacks run the show and have developed herbal medicines and home-made cures through innovative practice.

Agriculture and bamboo cultivation are the mainstay of the villagers. What is most remarkable is that the economy is self-sustaining and runs on the barter system. Eggs for potatoes, milk for rice, and bamboo for cows-everything is available on exchange!

The village headman, Tuffail Islam, an old and illiterate man has never visited Guwahati or any other town in Assam. For the 70 odd years of his life he has remained confined to his village and its adjoining areas.

Speaking to The Northeast Daily on Thursday, Mr Islam said that he had no idea what or who is a chief minister. "Chief minister? What chief minister?" he asked incredulously.

"We are not bothered as who is the chief minister or the prime minister of Assam. These things are of little consequence to us," he said.

When asked about the AGP, he replied: "I haven't heard that name before. Is it is a hybrid quality beej (seedling)?"

Asked to name an Indian freedom fighter, he said, "Why? There are so many. Mahatma Gandhi, his daughter Indira Gandhi, and so many others," Mr Islam replied nonchalantly.

46-year old Ramzan Mianh, who is the sole teacher of a local school regards "politics as a game for the rich." He stressed, "Politics is not for us. It is only meant for the rich who live in cities."

"Elections? No, elections for us. We will not vote this year. Where are the politicians when our village is submerged during the floods? We fight all alone for survival. What is the point in voting?" asked Mr Mianh, who teaches Arabic to 20 students. The villagers of the Sorimari haven't voted for the last 15 years.

34-year old Shamsul Ali and 46-year old Abdul Sattar are Imams of the Sorimari mosque, the only one in the area. "We have weekly community meals and intra-community marriages which the neighbouring villages have done away with," said Mr Ali. Mr Sattar added that the village is self-sufficient because of the strong bonds of unity the villagers share with each other.

The Imams are also faith healers and claim to have cured several hundreds of cases in the village and its adjoining areas.

(SORIMARI, Indo-Bangla border in Assam, APRIL 21) By Souvik Chowdhury