As Basirhat limps back to normalcy in the wake of communal violence over a Facebook post, villagers say illegal movement of men and material across the border has seen a drastic dip. “The border has been quiet over the past few days. Usually, movement of men and material takes place during the night. But since the area is in the grip of tension, people stay awake and night guards keep vigil. Smuggling has stopped,” said Md Allauddin Mondol, a trader at Shakchura village, located just a kilometre from the border.
Besides smuggling of various items, including gold and cows, Basirhat and adjoining areas are known to act as conduits for cross-border trafficking and infiltration. Villagers stated that youths in the villages have formed night guard parties.
“Muslims account for 90 per cent of the population of our village. Since the tension spread, we formed teams of night guards to keep a watch on shops and religious places. We are also keeping an eye out for outsiders. This has thwarted the smugglers. Some people in our village, who are involved in such activities, are now lying low,” said Biswanath Dey, who owns a shop at the local market.
“Generally, the smugglers use motorbikes. But over the past few days, there has been little to no movement of motorbikes or vehicles due to the tension in the area,” said Ansarul Gazi, a villager.
According to local residents, heavy deployment of security personnel along the border following the communal clash has also contributed to the dip in smuggling activities across the border. “We are keeping a tight vigil along the border to ensure that nothing adds to the problem. Four companies of BSF have been pressed to maintain law and order in the Basirhat area,” said a senior BSF officer.
The communal tension has also hit tourism in the area. Taki town, which is separated from Bangladesh by the Icchamati river, and is major tourist spot, has hardly seen any visitor since the violence. “On an average, I get over 70 customers daily. The number goes up on Sundays. But as you can see, there is no one now. This has been the situation since trouble started in Baduria and Basirhat areas,” said Bimal Dey, owner of Maa Mamatamoyee restaurant and hotel on the Taki riverside.
While tension continues to prevail in the area, no untoward incident was reported on Sunday. Some shops and business establishments opened, while a few autos, buses and trucks were seen plying on the Taki road. “We have held peace meetings and joint rallies over the past two days. Everyone here, Hindus or Muslims, wants to live peacefully together,” said Md Noor Islam Gazi, a resident of Basirhat who participated in the peace meetings held in the presence of police and administrative officials.
Meanwhile, some villagers said that the cross-border movement saw a surge on Monday and Tuesday, just before the violence. BSF officials, however, refused to comment on this.