The people of Milik Sultanpur believe that similar to Mamata Banerjee’s crusade in Singur, she will also fight for their farm land and given them freedom.
When the first-phase of the election starts in West Bengal, the people here, on the Indo-Bangladesh border in Malda district, are keeping their fingers crossed for Banerjee to become the next chief minister. However, it is not a fight against an industrial project, but fencing of the international border that worries villagers.
“Didi tried to save land in Singur. Our request to her is speak for us, too. We have about 2,500 bighas (800 acres) here and if the authorities go ahead with the current fencing plan, we will lose nearly 400 acres of our agricultural land. She is the only person who can save us, so we are voting for the Trinamool Congress leader to become the chief minister,” says Afjal Hossin, a Congress ward member from the village.
The village is under Baishnabnagar, from where Biswanath Ghosh from the CPI(M) and Isha Khan Choudhury from the Congress are having a close fight. Choudhury is the son of Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury, Malda district chief of the Congress. Milik Sultanpur has 700-800 people living under the surveillance of the Border Security Force.
“According to international rules, the fencing should be done at zero to 150 metres inside the international border. But what the authorities are trying to do is to cover more that this inside, which is why we are going to lose a huge amount of land. Though there is a case pending in the court, we want somebody to help us. Though Indians, we are in no-man’s-land and have only 50 per cent independence,” says Aminul Islam, a local business man. In the 800 acres, they cultivate rice, wheat and jute.
This situation isn’t uncommon, according to reports, about 5,000 acres was left between the barbed fence and the no-man’s-land after the Malda border with Bangladesh was fenced. People here are not against fencing, but they don’t want to lose their farm land. In this part, the Pagla river separates both India and Bangladesh.
“Since we are in no-man’s-land, we have to go through security checks each and every time. We are not allowed to go even to hospitals in the night. Nobody wants to marry our girls and are not ready to send their girls. We are completely cut off from other parts,” says Rudfal Haque, a farmer.
When asked about this, a top customs official said, “In this area only, we have exported goods worth Rs 97 crore, so it is the duty of security agencies to tighten vigilance in these open areas to block smuggling and infiltration.” However, people here are hoping that with the ‘change wave’ prevailing in the state, their lives also will be changed.