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This West Bengal village celebrates Independence Day on August 18

The unique celebration at Shibnibas, in Nadia district, stems from the Partition, protests and perseverance

Rangan Datta | Published 19.08.22, 06:35 PM
The highlight of the August 18 ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at Shibnibas is the boat race on the Churni River

The highlight of the August 18 ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at Shibnibas is the boat race on the Churni River

Rangan Datta

Shibnibas, a nondescript village in Nadia district, in the eastern part of Bengal and not very far from the Bangladesh border, gets its name from the many Shivlings housed in the village’s towering mid-18th-century temples. But the temples, thronged by devotees during festivals, aren’t the only thing special about Shibnibas. The village on the banks of the Churni River celebrates Independence Day on August 18 and hoists the Tricolour on that day.

The village gets its name from the many Shiva temples

The village gets its name from the many Shiva temples

Rangan Datta

A different Independence Day

The story behind the “different Independence Day” goes back to the Partition. British lawyer Viscount Cyril Radcliffe was given the responsibility of demarcating the international borders for India, near Punjab and Bengal. The original Radcliffe Line, as the border came to be known, put a large section of Nadia and Murshidabad districts as part of East Pakistan, while Jessore and Khulna remained part of India. 

The Radcliffe Line showing the division of West Bengal and East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh

The Radcliffe Line showing the division of West Bengal and East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh

Wikimedia Commons
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Once the lines were marked, massive protests erupted in several parts of Nadia district as they wanted to remain in India. A message was wired to Viceroy Mountbatten, who ordered an immediate correction. On the evening of August 17, 1947, the All India Radio (AIR) announced the swapping of the districts. This demarcation of the India-Bangladesh border remains to this day. 

The event was celebrated by residents of Shibnibas the next day on August 18, 1947, by replacing the Pakistan flag raised in the district headquarters of Krishnanagar with the Indian Tricolour.

Bringing back a chapter from history

Anjan Sukul started the celebrations in 1991

Anjan Sukul started the celebrations in 1991

Rangan Datta

The event had been long forgotten until 1991, when Anjan Sukul from Shibnibas decided to celebrate the Independence Day of Nadia on August 18. However, hoisting the National Flag was only permitted on a few special days such as August 15 or January 26. A determined Sukul obtained a permission letter from the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry and went on to celebrate ‘Independence Day’ on August 18, 1991, in Shibnibas. 

Bhangra performance by the BSF

Bhangra performance by the BSF

Rangan Datta

Soon, friends and neighbours began taking interest in this one-of-a-kind Independence Day celebration, and the festivities took on a bigger scale. The 18 August Committee, a registered organisation, was formed in 1998 and soon local and national bodies started taking part in the festivities. Being a border town, it had a Border Security Force (BSF) camp and the BSF personnel also came up with special additions like a Bhangra dance performance and dog shows. The showstopper, however, is the boat race on the Churni.

Dog shows organised by the BSF

Dog shows organised by the BSF

Rangan Datta

With the restrictions of the pandemic easing up after two years, the 18 August Independence Day celebration was in full swing again in 2022. The event started with the hoisting of the National Flag, and was followed by a colourful Bhangra performance and a dog show by the BSF. It concluded with the grand spectacle of the women’s boat race on the Churni River.

The boat race

The boat race

Rangan Datta

Rangan Datta is a mathematics and management teacher by profession and a travel writer and photographer by passion. He has been addicted to discovering off-beat places since his undergraduate days at St. Xavier's College. Blogging and contributing to Wikipedia are his other passions.

Last updated on 19.08.22, 06:37 PM
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