|Women from Bangladesh line up for pushpanjali at the temple in Moragati, about 20km from Islampur in North Dinajpur.
Picture by Mehedi Hedaytullah
Every year, residents of Moragati village on the India-Bangladesh border in Islampur, wait for the four days of Durga Puja when the divide between the two countries vanishes.
During the festivities, visitors from Bangladesh are allowed entry into the Indian soil almost throughout the day.
The Puja is conducted at the Durga mandir in Moragati, which old-timers claim was built more than a century ago.
After Independence, the temple fell in the Indian territory and it is on the other side of the barbed wire fence on the Indian side.
But the boundary does not dampen the spirit of the Puja organisers.
In the Puja, the main business is not to fuss about the idols or the collection of subscription.
|The border fencing with Bangladesh and the
temple on the Indian side behind the wire fence.
Picture by Mehedi Hedaytullah
The organisers here are busy sending invitation letters to their near and dear once across the border in Bangladesh.
A fair called Milan Mela is held on Navami and Dashami where people from both the countries meet.
Moragati is 20km from Islampur.
Kamal Debnath, a resident of the village, met his cousin from Ataoari village in Panchagarh district of Bangladesh at the fair this time.
Debnath’s cousin, his maternal uncle’s son, is a schoolteacher in Bangladesh.
“We offered anjali together. We don’t know when we will meet again,” he said.
North Dinajpur district shares a 227km border with Bagladesh and Moragati’s border with the neighbouring country is around 10km long.
Everyday, the Indian border gates are opened twice and people who wish to come in have to write their names.
The names of those exiting the Indian side are also registered.
Sources said, the Border Guards Bangladesh also follow similar rules of entering names.
Muslims, too, take part in the Durga Puja.
“We wait for these few days as we can be united with those living on the Bangladesh side of the border. Even the jawans of the Border Security Force join in. We are grateful to the BSF and the Border Guards Bangladesh for allowing us to meet,” says Dinabandhu Debnath, one of the organisers of the Puja.
During the Puja, the Indian border gates are open from 9am to 5pm.
Radhakanta Debnath, 75, eagerly waits to meet his elder sister during the Puja.
“My sister got married 50 years ago in the erstwhile East Pakistan and each year, I wait to meet her and talk to her. She stays in Panchagarh district of Bangladesh and crosses the Nagar river on a ferry to come this side,” he says.
Rabiul Islam, a resident of Moragati, feels the spirit of oneness and nostalgia pushes aside the laws and rules in force along the international border.
“Biren Das, a resident of Islampur and the owner of a small tea garden, had funded the construction of the Durga mandir. Part of his estate is across the fencing. On Navami, I go to Milan Mela to meet my relatives from Bangladesh. I am grateful that the border guards do not disturb us in any way,” Islam says.
Sunirmal Thakur, a resident of Moragati village, says the wire fencing is a spoiler.
One has to register himself/herself at the border gate to go to the temple.
“But the BSF helps us,” he adds.
A senior officer of the BSF’s Kishenganj sector said the emotions of the people were with the Puja at Moragati.
“Sentiments run high during the Pujas and that is why we allow people to come to the temple. Security is always a priority and our men keep a strict vigil,” said the officer.