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Why this pillar in Tripura is dividing families, friends and kin

When Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, a village got carved into two. While one remained with India, the other fell across the border. And then, the gaps widened

Agartala: An international border (IB) pillar in Tripura is changing the way locals go about their daily lives. When Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, this pillar carved a village into two. While one remained with India, the other fell in Bangladesh. In the process it distanced families, relatives that once lived together in harmony.

“We have grown up seeing this pillar. In our early days, we used to play around it. But when we grew up, we realised that it was not a normal pillar, but an international boundary (IB) pillar demarcating the geographical boundary of India and Bandladesh,” said Md Hussein-Ula (18), a resident of Nagar village at Kalsimura area of Sepahijala district along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Till a couple of years ago, the pillar looked like just another pillar to Hussein. “But we realised the gravity of the IB when we arranged a family get-together. We got to know that to invite our relatives residing on the other side of the pillar, we had had to take permission from the Border Security Forces (BSF),” he said.

Even though it’s an unfenced area, the pillar demarcates the international boundary of both the countries, he added.

Md Hussein, a Class X student of Nagar High School, said that his father has three brothers and all of them reside in the same locality. But technically, while Hussein’s house falls in India, the other two are in Bangladesh.

Since the pillar has divided the area since 1971, people residing there are facing severe problems in their day-to-day activities. Some of them aren’t even allowed to catch fish from their ponds, since they fall on the other side of the border, unless they receive permission from both the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB). They even need to inform the authorities of both the countries well in advance, if they have any function to organise involving families from both the sides.

Nagar resident Abul Hussein still wishes if he could visit the old mosque behind him which falls in Bangladesh territory without having to go through the formalities every time
Nagar resident Abul Hussein still wishes if he could visit the old mosque behind him which falls in Bangladesh territory without having to go through the formalities every time
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Abul Hussein ( 50), who was also born at this place, shared his childhood stories with EastMojo. “Prior to the separation, this used to be one village called Nagar. After the partition, the village was divided into two, Hyderabad and Nagar. While Hyderabad went to the other side, Nagar remained with India,” he said.

This village also had a mosque where everyone used to visit for prayers. “But after separation, this 150-year-old mosque went to Bangladesh. We aren't allowed to go there anymore. Nagar has 177 families, where 1,150 people are living for decades now,” he added.

Even though the Centre had initiated process to fence Indo-Bangladesh international border, due to certain reasons, it is yet to be completed. The newly elected state chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb also visited the area several sites and reviewed a number of meetings but in vain.

The work to fence the 180-mt stretch along the India-Bangladesh border had started last year but is yet to be completed
The work to fence the 180-mt stretch along the India-Bangladesh border had started last year but is yet to be completed
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Nagar has 540 mt of unfenced area along the border. BSF personnel posted there also ensure that no one living within the radius of 150 mt from the IB are engaged in cattle grazing so that the cattle don’t cross the border.

Talking to EastMojo, Naveen Kumar, sub-inspector, BSF 74 Battalion, said, “Nagar village comes under the G-Company of Kalsimura Border out Post (BOP). As a part of security system, people of 86 families here are instructed to provide valid documents before getting in and out of the area. The families are also requested to stop the movement after 8 pm every day so as to ensure that no infiltration of any kind or smuggling activities take place in the area. However, in case of emergencies, we always give them some relaxation in the time schedule.”

BSF personnel keep a close eye on activities across the border area
BSF personnel keep a close eye on activities across the border area
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“Sometimes when domestic animals go out of the territory, we hold a BoP-level flag meeting and after that exchange programme is done,” he said, adding: “Apart from 24x7 duty, BSF has also installed four CCTV cameras to monitor the movement of people.”

The toughest challenging for the BSF here is to man the 150-mt-long corridor that is often used for smuggling of drugs. This corridor is also sometimes referred to as China Gali.