Border without boundaries
A grove of tall coconut trees stands against the sun, blocking its rays. While the grove is in India, the shade falls on Bangladesh.
Some distance ahead, a man steps out of his cowshed, which is in India, and moves a few yards towards his cowshed which happens to be in Bangladesh.
This is the fascinating tale of the bordering village of Panitar situated in Bashirhat sub-division of North 24-Pargana. For Bangladesh, it is known as Harhodda village of Bhomra Union of Satkhira Sadar upazila. The village is located on the bank of Ichamati river between Bangladesh and India.
It is an area where people from two different nationalities live as one. And they have been doing so for generations.
There is no fence to divide the border and it is tough to identify where Bangladesh ends and India begins. The locals speak a dialect of Satkhira, so even the words in the wind promise uniformity.
A few pillars are the only signs of a division otherwise invisible to the untrained eye. In this enclave within an enclave, national affiliations take a back seat to practicality.
The unique zigzagging border divides the two countries. But unlike other such villages which are rife with stories of communal violence, no such thing exists here. People of the two villages share the same pond for their bath and the same tube well for their drinking water. A small muddy road snakes through the middle of the village. Half of it belongs to Bangladesh and the other to India. Villagers from both the countries use the communal road.
Noor Mohammad, an inhabitant of Harhodda, said they did not face any problem and had been living there peacefully for generations. "If anyone faces any problem, we extend our support no matter the nationality."
A media delegation of Bangladesh visited the border area at the invitation of Border Security Force of India and talked with the villagers.
Rajab Ali, another inhabitant, said Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Border Security Force (BSF) helped the villagers a lot and they never faced any obstacles in travelling between the two countries.
"If anyone fells sick, we can enter both India and Bangladesh with the help of security personnel. It is rare in any bordering area."
K L Slathia, commanding officer of Panitar camp of BSF, said, "People of the two countries have been living here for a long time without any untoward incident. There are no militant and criminal activities in the border and there is a very good coordination between BGB and BSF."
Abdur Razzak, camp commander of BGB, said they tried to resolve all sorts of problems after discussing with the BSF and people of the villages.
Satkhira Sadar upazila is only 19 kilometres away from Harhadda while Panitar village is only eight kilometres away from Bashirhat sub division.