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A United Farewell at Taki

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Taki, a small town in North 24 Parganas district near Hasnabad, situated on the bank of Ichamati River, on the international border between India and Bangladesh, is a nice weekend place for sight-seeing, just about two hours journey from Kolkata. The strip of land between the two rivers, locally called tack, might have given rise to the name ‘Taki’. Taki was a land of old zamindar families. The first zamindar Krishna Das Raychowdhury (Guha) was a descendant of Birat Guha- one of the first five Kayasthas who came to Bengal from Kanauj.

The Biggest Festival of Bengal: The day when evil set foot in heaven, was the day when Durga’s need was felt. Durga—a combination of all sacred powers and lighted up with benevolence and beauty, is the wife of Lord Shiva and the Mother of Earth. She was born to curb the powers of Mahishasura, a cruel and oppressive demon, who had been granted the boon of absolute victory against any male warrior by Lord Brahma.The victory of Durga over this shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon is celebrated mostly in Bengal along with other parts of the world.

The X-Factor: Durga Puja is celebrated through various rituals. From the traditional unilateral idol worships to the incorporations of creative themes in pandals, this festival brings out the colors of enjoyment throughout its tenure. But finally, when the five days of regalement come to an end, all idols are immersed in water. Herein lays the specialty of Taki. We all know that Taki is located on the banks of the Ichamati River, which flows through India and Bangladesh and hence forms a natural boundary between the two countries. At the end of Durga Puja, on Vijaya Dashami, the river offers a unique scenario when boats crammed with people from both countries meet to immerse their respective idols. Boats of various dimensions can be seen on the river, as far as the eyes can see — each one flying the flag of its respective country.In Taki and adjacent areas of Hasnabad Block, the midstream of Ichamati is the International Boundary (IB). Here the river stretches about 600-800 meter. The conventional spots of immersions are within a span of 3.5km-4 km, ranging from Sodepur Point to the T shaped tri-junction confluence of river Dasa with Ichamati. On the other side of Taki Municipality territory remains the DebhattaUpaZilla within Satkhira District of the Republic of Bangladesh.

Political Aspects: Since the last three to four years, it has been experienced that some individuals take advantage of this large congregation and attempt to infiltrate or ex-filtrate. During the mass celebration of the festival involving a trans-border mixed crowd sailing in boats from the adjacent areas and also from the far-flung areas of the Sundarbans using the riverbed route of Hasnabad and Hingalganj from our side and from Nurnagar, Khanpur ,DakshinSripur, Laxmikantapur, Nalta of Debhatta Upazila (Satkhira district), and also other places from the side of our neighbouring nation, the boats were allowed go up to hand-shaking distance without any hindrance on part of the Border protectors of both the nations on the pretext of exchanging greetings and emotion of fraternity. But, everyone was not so benign and serious crimes took place violating the sanctity of the IB in the guise of cultural mingling.

People from both countries have the same anthropological features, linguistic and cultural similarities and also likeness in social customs and manners. Due to these factors, it is often difficult to distinguish a Bangladeshi from an Indian. Of all activities carried on along the international border areas, seven distinct types can be categorized separately. They are:

(a) Infiltration for Food, Cloth, Shelter, Cheap-Labour, and Job

 (b) Illegal Trade

 (c) Anti-National Activities

(d) Religious Fundamental Activities

(e) Human Trafficking (mostly women and children)

(f) Arms and Drugs smuggling and

(g) Theft and Robbery.

The first one, namely ‘Infiltration’ has certain causes amongst, which prominent ones are infiltration for livelihood, infiltration for political purposes, infiltration for religious fundamentalism and infiltration for ‘cheap-labour’.

Case Study:In the year 2011, a pandemonium was created over these issues. As per media report, a huge number (more than 50000) of BD Nationals crossed IB in large size boats (called Bajra) without any resistance or challenge. Local residents who witnessed the incident opined that, the miscreants actually outnumbered the small groups of the police force and BSF. Unscrupulous intruders took advantage of the long cherished spirit of “Bijoya “and the latest trend of “Indo-Bangladesh Moitree” and infiltrated and ex-filtrated across the respective territories. It was also heard that, a heinous racket of illicit liquor and exchange of Bangladesh currency of unimaginable amount remain operative due to this jostling crowd. Arson, torture and antisocial activities took place and local people got panicked and confined to their house. Some of Bangladeshis were stripped of their belongings. Incidents of misbehaviour with the ladies and even molestations were also alleged.  A reign of terror, horror & fear psychosis prevailed on that auspicious day. On that day, Sujoy Das, a research scholar of Indian Institute of Chemical Biology gone missing and feared drowned after the boat capsized. The country boat carrying 30 passengers capsized after colliding with a big Bangladeshi vessel. Others were somehow got rescued with the help of patrolling speedboats, the other boatmen, and civil defense volunteers. Two days later, the corpse ofSujoy Das was recovered by BGB. Similar incident happened for Bangladeshi boats as well. On that day, due to huge influx all roads lanes/bylanes, railway stations were under the control of BD nationals. For that particular time, roads were so densely populated that even an ambulance could not move resulting in the death of one person.

Remedies Adopted: To streamline this event in hassle-free manner and without any unwanted incident and to instill confidence amongst the residents of Taki and surrounding area was a tough challenge for the administration. They started preparatory work as per the instructions of the District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas. As an initiative, a meeting with Puja Committee was held on along with sub-divisional police administration, political parties, elected bodies and the Honourable MLAs at the SDO office of Basirhat. This Co-ordination meeting with 47 Battalion BSF, 18 Battalion BSF, Taki PouraNagarik Committee, Chairman, Police administration, Boat Owner Association, BMOH, BDO and Savapati resulted in the implementation of the following steps:

1) Wide-spread campaigning in Taki Municipality and surrounding area from Mahalaya

2) Exercising a mock drill before the Mahalaya under the co-ordination of the OC of Hasnabad in consultation with BSF, Chairman Taki Municipality and BDO of Hasnabad.

3) The BSF during their flag meeting shall request their Bangladesh Counterpart (BGB) to follow same.

4) Frisking operation taken up by Railway Police Force at Hasnabad and Taki Railway Stations.

5) Immersion at all places along the bank of Ichamati done on the same date except for Basirhat Municipality which will reduce the no of boat and ensure better movement.

6) Local civic body will illuminate all the ghats (used for big boats) and other de-boarding points used by small boats.

7) On the date of immersion the national boundary demarcation over the mid-stream is to be made visible.

8) Over the river, Police takes up frisking at two junction points

(a) AtMachrangaDwip and

(b) AtSodepur point in co-ordination with BSF personnel.

9) All boats shall carry their respective national flags and other signage to facilitate identification. Sufficient life jackets, tubes etc. are. No boat will be allowed to carry excess passenger and message was passed to the effect that, strict action would be taken against defaulter.

Cultural Confluence:Taki is a place of cultural confluence during the VijayaDashami. It is perhaps the only place where the flags of two neighbouring countries fly together without the occasion of any international competition. People from both India and Bangladesh greet each other with the sweetest words of Durga Puja: SubhoBijaya. Human fraternity once again establishes its victory over all demarcations on this day. The water of Ichamati merges the idols of two different countries while the ten-armed deity along with her four children, gets a beautiful farewell gift by his countless children on earth—united by the festival.

 

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