HELPLESS: A farmer ploughs near the India-Bangladesh border in Ramraikuti village in Dhubri district of Assam. — PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR
Ramraikuti (India-Bangladesh border): Samir Ali, a farmer and father of three, of this border village will be voting for the fourth time on April 10. So also will Azizur Rahman who lives with his family of five.
Ali and Rahman along with thousands of voters along the India-Bangladesh border under the Golokganj Assembly constituency in Dhubri district posed questions to the parties and candidates seeking votes: "When are we going to till our land as free citizens?"
Thousands of farmers living along this international boundary have their cultivable land in the no man’s land beyond the barbed wire fence. They can till their lands during the time stipulated by the Border Security Force (BSF), which is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The gate is thrown open at 8 a.m. when they can cross over with their cattle and agricultural implements after registering in the logbook maintained by the BSF. If they do not return by 4 p.m. they have to spend the night on the fields. Ali and Rahman’s thatched houses are located less than 10 yards from the barbed wire fence.
Vast tracts of cultivable land belonging to Indian farmers came under this zone when the fence was erected 150 yards from the actual India-Bangladesh boundary.
"We have to watch helplessly if cattle from the Bangladesh side enter our fields after 4 p.m. and eat the paddy that we grow. We plead with the BSF to let us go to the fields, but in vain, said Samir Ali pointing towards the houses of Bangladesh citizens just on the international border.
For the farmers along this international boundary, the Assembly election has come as an opportunity to step up pressure on political parties to impress on New Delhi to shift the fence to the actual border.
Assam shares 267.30 km international boundary with Bangladesh