This land is my land
Sujoy Dhar is a Reuters correspondent based in Kolkata. The senior journalist and columnist also heads feature service Trans World Features and portal indiablooms.com. He contributes for Sify as a columnist and reporter.
ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â‘Good fences make good neighbours ...ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â’
- American Poet Robert Frost, in Mending Wall.
The furrows on the weathered brow of 72-year-old Nirapada Mandal deepen as he ponders the second partition of the volatile Bangladesh border in Sutia, a remote village of 200 households in North 24 Parganas district, about 80 km from Kolkata.
Uprooted by communal riots of 1955 from his ancestral village just across the river in Bangladesh, Nirapada found a safe haven in the Hindu-majority Indian side, and has since lived a life of a poor but happy farmer with an expanding family.
Until the Indian government, in an attempt to check illegal migration and smuggling, decided to build a massive 768 km-long barbed wire fence along the border with Bangladesh. This fence, built 150 yards away from the border, or Zero line, effectively cuts off Nirapada and many of his villagers from their farms which hug the border.
Today, Nirapada trudges with other villagers down a mud track to a BSF check post, and produces his passbook like identity card before being allowed to reach their fields on the other side of the fence.
India and Bangladesh share a 4,096-km (2,544-mile) frontier, including 1150.62 km in south Bengal, of which 783.26 km is land and 367.34 km riverine boundary.