The local residents of Uparkhuti village in Assam’s Baksa District wanted a “different kind” of Independence Day this year.
At 11 am today, about 2000 people — many included school students — gathered around the village chowk to carry out a procession featuring a 3.5 km long Indian flag, stitched by 6 local tailors. The idea, which was conceived by the Sunrise Youth Club last year, aims to show that “things have changed around the region.” “We never hoisted flags nor did we celebrate Independence Day before,” says Pavan Oli, secretary of the club which works on youth-related social issues in the district. “We just want to say that we are living in peace now.”
Baksa district is one of the four districts that belong to the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) — and has for long been a “sensitive” area, living in the grip of militancy. “But things have calmed down since BTAD was granted — more or less,” says Oli.
The club members had floated the idea of making the “longest flag” on last year’s Independence Day rally. “One of the tailors present at the rally last year had volunteered to stitch it,” says Oli, “All he wanted was the cloth and ample time to stitch the flag.”
However, it was only on August 1 that the reams of cloth from Guwahati reached Uparkhuti. “Otherwise I would have managed to stitch it myself,” says Prakash Darji, the 32-year-old tailor, who had first volunteered to do the job.
Prakash and five other tailors from the village started stitching the flag on August 2 — “We suspended all our other work, The shutters of our shop have been down for the past 15 days. We have been working at the back so as to not get disturbed,” says Prakash, a “ladies’ special” tailor who learned the craft from his father. Their shop has been around for 40 years now.
The rally is dedicated to Assamese athlete Hima Das who recently won the gold at the World U20 Championships. “At night, we will have a cultural show with local singers,” says Oli.
To stitch the flag, the club gathered funds for the material through a donation drive. However, the tailors have not charged “even a single paise” to do the job.
“My wife Manju Devi also pitched in. For my brother Tularam Karki and me, it has been two weeks of no sleep! Maybe it will make a world record, maybe it won’t,” says Prakash, “Even if it’s a monetary loss for my business, it is alright. This is such a big gesture by our boys — I am proud to have done even a little bit.”