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Land-swap deal triggers paranoia

- Peasants want to sell off farms

Biskhowa-Jaskal-Satrasal border (Dhubri), Dec. 4: Fenced out in 1987 and paranoid after the Indo-Bangladesh land-swap deal, a group of farmers near the Dhubri border wants the government to buy their land before it is handed over to the neighbouring country.

The hand-over is not imminent, since the area is neither disputed, nor under adverse possession of Bangladesh, but residents of Biskhowa in Golokgunj — 134km from Boroibari, where 571 bighas are to be handed over to Bangladesh if the land-swap deal is ratified by both Parliaments — are wary.

After the fence cut off their farms in 1987, the farmers struggled to raise their crops, having to heed border gate timings. Produce dwindled, as did their profits, but they survived.

Now, with the Indo-Bangla land-swap deal, they fear that someday another turn of events would snatch their land and sustenance and turn them into paupers.

Seventy-year-old Satish Chandra Barman of Biskhowa border village is one such farmer who does not want to keep his 15 bighas.

Boroibari has come as a jolt, Barman told The Telegraph. “That was the last blow,” he said.

Many others like him had been finding the going difficult for several years now given the restrictions imposed by the BSF manning the border.

“What is the use of keeping a land I cannot visit freely or cultivate and harvest paddy in time. There are fixed timings within which we have to return from the land. We cannot keep on farming this way,” Barman said.

“And now after what they did with Boroibari, I am afraid I may lose my land one day,” he said.

There has been gradual decline of returns from the farms which had once been fertile and profitable, said Sudhangsu Chakraborty of Jaskal village.

“So there is no point in keeping this land and paying khajna (revenue) to the government coffers. Let the government buy the land and do whatever they like with it,” he said.

Dinesh Chandra Sarkar, a former legislator and resident of Biskhowa, said nearly 5,000 bighas in the Golokgunj sector were lying useless.

“Cultivation cannot always be governed by official timings that the BSF imposes; but we are not opposing it since it is for the security of the border. We just want the government to buy our land at the rate of Rs 10,000,00 per bigha,” Sarkar added.

Pradip Sen, a social activist of Satrasal border, while endorsing the demand, said it would also help the BSF since they would not have to monitor the movement of Indian citizens outside the fence and can concentrate on other security matters instead.

There are nearly 2,500 villagers in the Golokgunj sector of the Indo-Bangla border whose farms were sliced through by the fence, Sarkar said.


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