Two-district pain erupts

The demonstration on NH34 at Kurmanpur near Raiganj on Wednesday. Picture by Kousik Sen

Raiganj: Residents of four village clusters in North Dinajpur that fall under Harirampur block of neighbouring South Dinajpur have renewed a movement to press for their areas to be included in North Dinajpur district.

On Wednesday, hundreds, including school students, blocked the National Highway-34 near Itahar in North Dinajpur for over an hour, throwing traffic out of gear along the stretch.

Sources said back in 1992, when the then West Dinajpur district was bifurcated into North and South Dinajpurs, the four cluster of villages (called mouzas) - Bhabanipur-Bejpukur, Bimalpara, Kurmanpur and Paschim Sayedpur that were under Itahar block - were included in North Dinajpur. Around 10,000 people live in these clusters.

"Since then, we have been protesting the state's decision as Raiganj (the district headquarters of North Dinajpur) is only 30 km away from these places and even now, our police station is Itahar. On the other hand, Balurghat (the district headquarters of South Dinajpur) is 110km away. That is why we want the change," said Harendranath Das, secretary of a citizens' forum that has been formed to achieve the demand.

The residents also pointed that they have to visit both districts for official work. "We are completely dependent on Raiganj, Itahar and adjoining places of North Dinajpur for our day-to-day needs but for administrative works, we have to travel to Balurghat. It is very inconvenient for us. The state should give a thought to our demand and make the change," said another resident.

The demonstrators said that if the Bangladesh enclave issue can be settled at the international level, there is no reason as why the state cannot realign these mouzas and bring them under North Dinajpur district through a notification.

As the road blockade continued on Tuesday, administrative and police officials rushed to the spot. They spoke to the agitators and could manage to persuade them to withdraw the demonstration. "The blockade was withdrawn as government officials assured us steps. We will however, not sit idle and renew the movement," said Das.

Officials of North Dinajpur district said they are aware of the demand. "We have sent letters to the state government with the request that the issue needs to be addressed. The district administration has no authority to work on it unless there is a specific instruction from the state," said Ayesha Rani A, DM, North Dinajpur.


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