Over a year and a half since they inaugurated the “Wagah of the East” ceremony on the Petrapole-Benapole border, India and Bangladesh contrast each other in terms of symbolic representation. On the Bangladesh side stands a 20-foot mural painting of Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founder. The Indian side, on the other hand, does not yet have any representation symbolic of itself, with only a large tree facing the border.
The two countries inaugurated the border closing retreat ceremony on this border on November 7, 2013. The 13-minute ceremony, which engages jawans of India’s Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh, is cordial and avoids aggressive stomping.
A BSF official said they could have either Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait at the venue or a pillar with the Ashok Chakra engraved. “We sought permission from the local authorities to cut the tree and make some makeshift arrangements but it was declined,” said the BSF official.
For the integrated check posts with modern infrastructure that are supposed to come up on both sides, Bangladesh has begun work while India is working out the details. The Land and Port Authority is executing the project and on the anvil is also a viewer’s gallery. “We are lagging as the design is still being finalised. There are two phases to the project, one for the movement of trucks and the other for constructing passenger terminals and other amenities,” said a BSF official.
Officials say it was on the BSF’s insistence that renditions from the works of Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam were included in the ceremony. Nazrul, who was known for his “rebel” writings, was born in Churulia in present-day West Bengal but moved to Bangladesh on its invitation in 1972. He had strongly favoured an undivided Bengal.
The spot where the ceremony takes place has a line of white paint separating the territories. The ceremony will be extended to three more border sites — Siliguri in West Bengal, and Changrabandha-Burimari and Akhaura in Tripura.
Bangladesh Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, who had inaugurated the ceremonial lowering of flags in 2013, said then, “The retreat ceremony is not only expected to strengthen the friendship between BGB and BSF, but would also help lead a better border management between the two countries.”