The Telegraph
Thursday , August 17 , 2017

Against the tide, flag is hoisted

- At school, knee deep to chest high

The flag hoisting at Naskara Lower Primary School

Guwahati, Aug. 16: The flood has claimed at least a hundred lives in the past week. Yesterday, it doffed its fury to the national flag.

The Tricolour fluttered in the air in knee-deep water - chest high for some - in a school in Assam after four teachers and two Class III kids had steadied themselves in the submerged playground of the primary school, hoisted the flag and raised their right palm to their foreheads.

Then they sang the national anthem and the national song - all in the water.

Naskara Lower Primary School, under water even today, is situated in lower Assam's Dhubri district, one of the worst hit by the swollen Brahmaputra that has affected at least 25 of the state's 33 districts since August 10.

By Monday morning - barely 24 hours before Independence Day - five classrooms had been inundated.

"We had no clue how to hoist the national flag in the floodwaters," headmaster Tazem Sikdar told The Telegraph today.

But the 50-year-old was determined. "Next morning (August 15) there was no rain but the water had risen further. Still, by 7am on Independence Day, at least 25 students stood on a road about 10 metres away, waiting to hoist the national flag. Since it was chest-deep water for the kids, we selected two Class III students, Jiarul Ali Khan and Haidor Ali Khan, who know swimming, while the rest waited on the road."

Sikdar, three assistant teachers - Mizanur Rahman, Nripen Rabha and Joydev Roy - and the two students then hoisted the flag at the school, some 2.5km from Fakirganj town and 200km west of Guwahati.

"We hoisted the flag, sang Jana Gana Mana and Vande Mataram while the rest of the students followed us from the road," Sikdar said. "In my 22 years of service, this is the first time we faced flood on Independence Day."

Roy, one of the assistant teachers, clicked pictures of the flag. Mizanur, his colleague, uploaded on Facebook the pictures that have gone viral, drawing over 61,000 likes and more than one lakh shares by this evening.

In a post yesterday, Mizanur said: "Happy independence day to all..... I m the asstt teacher at this school, school name...1185 No. Naskara LP school.. under Fakirganj Police station. need to tell how we are right now, pic will tell all the stories...i did not expect this kind of support....thank you all for sharing this picture."

The photographs have to be sent to Amir Hamza, the cluster resource centre co-ordinator who monitors at least 11 schools.

That's the state government's rule, Mizanur says. Any school event must be recorded through photographs.

The coordinator, a government official, will send the pictures to the block officer, who would forward them to the education department in Dispur, Guwahati.

After the publicity that Naskara has got since Mizanur uploaded the pictures yesterday, the teacher's family and nearly 500 households in the area and neighbouring Bilpara village hope that the problems they have been facing for years will finally get the attention they deserve.

Assam is in the middle of a second round of floods caused by heavy showers in the catchment areas of the Brahmaputra and its often turbulent tributaries. The flood toll in the state stands at 110. More than 8.38 lakh people have been affected in 484 villages in Dhubri.

The problems are many: continuous erosion, bad roads, erratic power supply and havoc caused by floods almost every year.

For Mizanur, the floods have brought a personal tragedy. His 18-year-old cousin, Rashidul Islam, drowned in Fakirganj yesterday, a few hours after the flag-hoisting. Another woman died today at Namashersho village, about 2km away.

"The 75km road that connects us with NH31 to reach Dhubri has been in a bad shape for decades. The Brahmaputra has moved inland, eroding more than 11km of land in Fakirganj over the past three decades. The hospital in Arikata, about 3km from here, has been badly damaged by the floods this year. There has been no electricity in the villages for the past four days. Since many are asking about Naskara today, we hope our problems will also be heard now," Mizanur, 26, the person in white in the photograph, said from Naskara.

There is another problem too: an issue of citizenship.

Mizanur, who was involved in the process of updating the National Register of Citizens 1951, said harassment in the name of detection of illegal migrants from Bangladesh was a common complaint of villagers.

"Many are making the rounds of the foreigner tribunals and Gauhati High Court where their cases are pending," he said.

Dhubri, which borders Bangladesh, is suspected to have a large number of illegal migrants form the neighbouring country.

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