At the onset of autumn they cross the border every year, carrying dhaks on their backs. For the next few days, they work up a traditional rhythm at Puja pandals on this side of the border, earning a few extra bucks and, more importantly, lending an emotional touch to Bengal’s biggest festival.
The guards at the border and police usually relax a bit and the dhakis would go back after the Pujas, only to return next year.
But all that was in the past, when IS was an unknown commodity in Bangladesh. This year, after the Holy Artisan Bakery massacre and the gradual proliferation of the IS on the soil of the eastern neighbour, Bangladeshi dhakis will be missed at the Puja pandals.
There are many dhakis in Bengal, especially in the districts of Bankura, Purulia, Hooghly, but those from the neighbouring country, too, are hired during the Pujas in many districts of south Bengal.
“Durga Puja is incomplete without dhakis, but at the same time we have to ensure that everything is done according to the law,” said Bhaskar Mukherjee, the superintendent of police of North 24 Parganas that shares a long unfenced border with Bangladesh.
Every year, several dhakis living in Bangladesh cross over to play in the Puja pandals. They are mostly poor village folks and don’t have the wherewithal to obtain passports and enter the legal way. Police officers of bordering districts told HT that the flow will be reduced to a trickle, only limited to those who can afford to obtain a passport and enter the legal way.
“In this area, there is a vast area that is unfenced and I will not deny that many people enter India through this unfenced border to make ends meet. At the same time, some dhakis, too, cross over during the festive season through the border. We are maintaining strict vigil and this year dhakis from Bangladesh, who do not have any valid papers, could face hassles,” said an officer working at Bongaon police station.
BSF has said that during the Puja days, the security is tightened along the border, and work for fencing the porous area has already been initiated.
“We have enforced highest level of security on the border and none would be allowed to cross over without any valid papers,” RPS Jaswal, the DIG, BSF, South Bengal Frontier, said.
After the BJP took power at the Centre, vigilance has gone up at the border with a drastic reduction in the number of cattle smuggled to Bangladesh. The watch went up to an all-time high after the reports of IS infiltration in Bangladesh and the arrest of Md Mussa in Burdwan in the first week of July.
Mussa was given an assignment by an IS operative in Bangladesh to behead a businessman of Labhpur, Birbhum to prove whether he is worthy of taking bigger assignments in India.