Historic Assam village in limelight for wrong reasons

August 14th, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by IANS  

(Letter from India-Bangladesh border)
By Syed Zarir Hussain
Maishasan (Assam), Aug 14 (IANS) Dhananjoy Pal is a disenchanted man as he finds the name of his historic village, where over 100 Indian soldiers lost their lives at the hands of the British troops during the war of independence in 1857, hogging the media limelight for the wrong reasons. The isolated village of Maishasan, about 370 km south of Assam’s main city of Guwahati and located at India’s border with Bangladesh in Karimganj district, is in the spotlight for being used as a route to push back illegal Bangladeshis by security forces.

“In the past one week, 17 people (illegal migrants) were brought to our police station. After verification, we handed them over to the BSF (Border Security Force) who in turn have pushed them back across the border,” said A. Purkayastha, officer in charge of the Maishasan police station.

“Newspapers and television channels were taking Maishasan’s name as the route used to expel foreigners. I feel very bad about it as Maishasan’s name is becoming popular for the wrong reasons,” Pal, president of the local village council, told IANS.

This little village has an honoured place in the history of India’s struggle for independence. Over 100 Indian soldiers lost their lives here at the hands of the British troops during the war of independence in 1857. Now, the village of about 500 people comes alive for a few minutes in the morning when a train chugs in.

“Life literally comes to a halt once the train leaves and there is absolutely no activity after that,” said Anwar Ali, a village elder.

“Surely Maishasan and its surrounding areas like Latu is a historic place with tombs of the Indian soldiers still there,” Pal said even as the train chugged its way into the station.

As the train was ready to depart and a few passengers jumped into the coaches, another village elder Debashish recalled how they used to travel to Sylhet in Bangladesh by train from Maishasan.

“From 1949 to 1965, trains operated between Karimganj and Sylhet through Maishasan, connecting former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to Assam,” said Debashish.

Now Maishasan is the last station in India with the rail track to Bangladesh still in place, but not in use with border fencing now cutting across the rail lines.

“I wish the rail service re-opens once again. If that happens it would just take about 10 hours to reach Kolkata via Bangladesh from here,” said Somen Pal, a local youth.

Now it takes about three days to reach Kolkata by train from Maishasan.

The historic village does not even have a proper road, not to speak of other basic amenities - the seven km stretch from the nearest main road to Maishasan takes about 45 minutes of bumpy drive through mud and slush.

“Let us hope and pray that even if Maishasan is in the media limelight for the wrong reasons, maybe the government now wakes up and does something for the welfare of the people,” said Pal as he left the railway station for home.

Cattle ambled over to rest in the platform, while a few schoolchildren walked along the tracks to the primary school located a few kilometres away.

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