The beginning of the article is capable of challenging Tolstoy’s “All happy families are alike.”
ALL NATIONAL BORDERS ARE IMAGINARY. But some are more imaginary than others. And perhaps some nations are more imaginative too.
It is customary to spout platitudes about nations, their glorious histories, their heart-stirring national anthems, their national characteristics and their bitter-sweet relationships with neighbours. So much that we tend to forget that nations are often accidents of history and there is nothing natural about them. Nowhere is it more apparent than the border areas, where a casual ink stroke has separated families and societies and natural economy arbitrarily into two nations, where it is impossible for people to live by national ideals (and isolations) that inlanders in their comfortable homes and stable lives rejoice in.
As if an arbitrary boundary wall is not enough, there is the absurdity of chit mahals on India-Bangladesh border.
There are some 200 chhit mahals in all, approximately 106 pockets of Indian territory inside Bangladesh and another 92 the other way around. Some are “counterenclaves”: an island of Bangladesh surrounded by India, surrounded by Bangladesh (or vice versa), and one, called Dahala Khagrabari # 51, is an Indian counter-counterenclave or, in the jargon of border management, an “adversely held third order enclave.” India inside Bangladesh, inside India, inside Bangladesh.
And there are valid reasons of “national” politics for why the situation has not been remedied and people are stuck with their disconnected nationalities (and hence lack benefits, papers, identities and rights!). Na khuda hi mila, na visaal-e-sanam* is what it reminds me of.
People are killed, raped and mutilated in the normal course of the day – visiting their families and carrying out trade that makes perfect sense for the area, but which national ideals have declared illegal.
Read the entire story of borderland dwellers on n+1 magazine.
* I neither found God, nor achieved union with my love.