For the 200 residents of Kullupara village in Nadia, the elections have a special meaning. On Saturday, after many years, the residents of the village had the right to move in and out of the village at will and that too for the whole day. It was their independence day.
Located at the Kullupara check post on India-Bangladesh border, the village is on the other side of the barb wire fencing the Indian border. Though very much under the jurisdiction of Indian territory, the village is just 150 metres from Bangladesh.
Comprising only 38 houses, the village dominated by a Muslim population has 200 residents of which 105 are voters. The only way of livelihood for these people is cultivating the land adjacent to their huts.
“Because of the strange geographical position of our village, we have to cross the BSF checkpost to enter India. The gate is shut by 5 pm. Even on Eid, the gate does not remain open beyond the scheduled time. We feel like living inside a jail. It is only on the day of election that the gate remains open all day so that we can cast our vote and we are truly free to go in and out of the village and get onto the other side of the fenced Indian territory,” said Bogul Mondol, head of the village.
Majdiya, the nearest town from the village, is 4 km away. Without any public vehicle available, villagers have to walk down all the way to get their daily groceries, and get access to schools, colleges and hospital.
The zig-zag India-Bangladesh border also means that villagers have to walk through Bangladesh occupied land to reach another house across the same courtyard. Supriya Khatun, originally a resident of Jibanpur in Bangladesh, was married into this village in India 20 years ago. “I am an Indian at heart now. This is where my husband and family live and like others I too have cast my vote today knowing very well that no political party would solve our problem.”
Gayeshopur in Chuyadanga district of Bangaldesh is nearer than the nearest town in Bengal. “There is no barbed wire on the other side guarding the Bangladesh border. Farmers from that side come here to cultivate the lands belonging to Bangladesh. Sometimes we give them food and water. Our agony, however, starts when troublemakers from Bangladesh come and disturb our harvest and cattle,” said Jahanara Khatun from her mud hut.
Supriya, Jahanara and their whole clan speak in chaste Bengali but with the accent of people from Khulna district of Bangladesh. “Life here is very tough. After 5 pm, the BSF closes the gate and we are cut off from India and are at mercy of these people from Bangladesh. We have no roads, no electricity; there are only two tube wells in the village. None of the political parties think about us. No one came for campaigning. Some people from both CPI(M) and Trinamool had come in one day and painted some of the huts with their symbols and names of candidates,” said Mithun Mondol, a 19-year-old resident of the village, now earning his living as a construction worker in Tollygunge.
Located in Krishnagunge assembly constituency, this village comes under Matihari panchayat, which was won by Trinamool. For the assembly election, the village is voting for Mamata Banerjee but its residents have made it clear that they are not swept by the Maa, Maati, Manush slogan of Banerjee. “We have understood that Didi would come to power. So we are voting for her party. This will make our life easy, we will be allowed to bring in fertilisers and our daily ration through the checkpost and take our harvest to the nearest market for auctioning without much hindrance,” said Saidul Mondol, a first-time voter of the village.
“We know that no political party or its leaders will ever visit our village and bring in electricity and construct roads here,” he said.