In 1947, the partition of India gave the birth of two countries India and Pakistan. Later East Pakistan ceased to exist in 1971, with a new country Bangladesh. These three countries were once the part of a united India prior to 1947. Boundary Commission with haste in 1947, completed the demarcation work planning of a new boundary in two months. The commission never consulted the local people of the demarcated area or of any referendum, in the new map-making. Still exists many unresolved issues even after seventy-two years of the partition, a threat to the survival of the people.
The Partition Stories narrate the issues on human rights violations and breach of the constitutional guarantee.
In 2014, I started a long-term photography project on Partition Stories. A commonality of language, identity, and religion still a debatable issue outcome of unresolved partition policy. Chitmohol, Simana, and Bhumiputra narrate the stories of unresolved partition issues which is continuing with no respite to an end.
The Bloodiest Border
The international border area of India and Bangladesh is notorious for extrajudicial killings, torture, abductions and custodial death. The inhabitants of both the countries of this area are the victims of severe human violations by Indian border forces (BSF). Their agony is ignored and unnoticed, because of cross border smuggling and terrorism. The approach of BSF to the people in this area is always with deep suspicion. For their “Trigger Happy” notoriety, in 2011 Human Rights Watch cited the Bengal border as the bloodiest border in the world.
The international border separates the state of West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. West Bengal and East Bengal (now Bangladesh) was part of the Bengal province during the British colonial period. Bangla is the common language of this region with the similarity of religion, culture and tradition, where familial relations are spread across this vast land. The harmony snapped the province during partitioned of India in 1947. In 1971, India helped Bangladesh to liberate. Since then BSF patrolling the border of a friendly neighbour, was the beginning of unabated atrocities on the citizens of both the countries. The common look and language of the border people identity have imprecise the nationality with little understanding of the history of the region BSF justified their atrocities to deal only with them.
Since September 2015 I started working on the Bloodiest Border while studying documentary photography. The project explores the impact of the border on the lives of the people whose national identity is debatable along with their struggle against the oppression.
Centuries ago the Enclaves or Chitmohol in local language were used as stakes in a card or chess games between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Maharaja of Rangpur currently were in India and Bangladesh respectively. These are like islands of Indian and Bangladeshi territory surrounded by the other country’s land, clustered on either side of the international border.
In June 1947, the British India Government appointed Sir Cyril Radcliffe for the boundary demarcation of the two new sovereign states – India and Pakistan. But Radcliffe and other commission members lack the expert knowledge and information needed for the task of boundary demarcation. Soon after the independence, the problem arises of Enclaves placed in no man’s land.
In the midnight of 15th August 1947 people of India and Pakistan immersed into independence. But the Enclaves turned into a foreign territory marooned in a country. Restrictions on the movement of people beyond the Enclave, trade embargo imposed and the citizens were declared foreigners. The Enclaves had left in abandonment. They were pockets of abject poverty denied education, infrastructure for water, electricity, hospitals, etc. The residents faced persecution from Indian and Bangladesh authorities whenever they stepped out of their enclaves for any medical emergency and livelihood. More than seventy percent of the residents of the enclaves had spent time in prisons after being arrested for violating the Foreigners’ Act for entering Indian or Bangladesh Territory without having valid travel documents. The whole social system was paralyzed and continued for sixty-eight years.
Finally, on 1st August in 2015, the Enclaves were merged to India and Bangladesh where people get citizenship status of their chosen country. So it was the end of apathy and disownment.
Son of the Soil
In 2016, the National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) introduced in the state of Assam in India to detect ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh. Any Bengali-speaking people in the state consider ‘illegal immigrants’. The report released by NRC, over 4.1 million illegal immigrants chiefly Bengali-speaking people are now in a stateless situation. The chauvinistic policy of the Assaseme people and the state is the reason for apartheid that breaches the constitutional guarantee of the Bengali speaking people. The United Nations twice sought clarification on this issue from the Indian government but nothing reported.
Assam is a multi-ethnicity state where Bengali speaking people constitutes a larger population. Since India’s independence, there is a discontent of the Assamese over the Bengali speaking people. There were incidents of state-sponsored killings, slaughter and torture on the community people. In 1984 the Citizenship Act of the Indian Constitution amended based on the Assam Accord agreement for the detection of illegal immigrants. Gradually various measures enforced on the community people to delist from the electoral roaster as a doubtful voter, captivating in detention centres and the introduction of NRC to make them stateless. Currently, more than a hundred thousand people are out of the electoral roaster and without trial, thousands of people are in detention centres. The militancy approach of the state and its officials are in gross violations of human rights on its citizens. The Assam government already spend forty-five million US dollar on the largest under construction detention centre in the country. The situation is so worse sixty people committed suicides to avoid the unlawful detention and deportation though being an Indian citizen.