Some in West Bengal mark ‘I-Day’ on Aug 18

Tuesday 20th August 2019 16:05 EDT

Kolkata: While India celebrates its Independence Day on 15 August some areas in West Bengal bordering Bangladesh celebrate their day of independence three days later on 18 August. "Bharat Bhukti Dibas" or "India Inclusion Day" is celebrated to hail rectification of the "Radcliffe Line" that had awarded parts of undivided Bengal to India after they were added in East Bengal province of Pakistan on August 15, 1947.

On August 12, 1947, Viceroy Louis Mountbatten announced that the country would be given its freedom on August 15, 1947. Bengal, however, remained a contentious subject because according to the recommendations of Cyril Radcliffe, the British official in charge of drawing up the demarcations for maps for the partition of India, several districts like Malda and Nadia with large Hindu populations were awarded to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. However, following protests at several Hindu-majority areas that fell in Pakistan, the Radcliffe Line was modified three days later. While Malda, Nadia and Dinajpur districts were bifurcated and awarded to both the countries, Murshidabad was returned in entirety to India. Bongaon subdivision of Pakistan's Jessore district was merged with 24 Parganas. While Radcliffe had awarded all the 16 police station areas of the Malda district to East Pakistan on August 15, 1947, three days later, 11 of them were returned to India. The then district magistrate of Malda, Ashok Sen, had hoisted the Indian national flag in Malda district administrative building on August 18, 1947, marking inclusion of the western part of the district into India.

Continuing with the tradition, cultural programmes are held to recall the times when Bengal stood on the threshold of fresh communal strife in 1947 after being partitioned. Sunday was no different, with Malda’s English Bazaar and Shibnibash in Nadia’s Krishnaganj block holding flag-hoisting ceremonies. At Shibnibash, the 18th August Independence Day Celebration Committee organized a procession of senior citizens. Committee secretary Anjan Sukul said: “I heard about the three days from my grandfather, a freedom fighter.” Sukul, who has researched this episode in history, has received commendation letters from the Centre and the PMO.

Amlan Bhaduri, district TMC leader and English Bazaar Municipality councillor, said: “Though we live in free India today, it is imperative to make the present generation aware of history. Without the correction made in 1947, our history would have been entirely different. Confusion reigned at midnight on August 14, when we heard on the radio that parts of Malda and Nadia would be in East Pakistan. It was the darkest dawn ever when we saw the Pakistan flag hoisted atop the Malda district collectorate’s office,” recalled Tushar Kanti Ghosh, a retired teacher. “We were even asked to store boiled water in large pots to protect homes from possible attacks.” Fear had gripped the Hindu community. Anima Sarkar, an octogenarian, said: “It was the worst of times when we suddenly found ourselves under East Pakistan.”

Debdip Dutta, a programme organizer, said: “We have demanded from the administration that this be announced as a special day for Malda.” Isro scientists Suhas Mukherjee and Goutam Mani, who were part of the Chandrayaan project, were felicitated on the occasion. Their families received the laurels on their behalf.

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