Islands formed Within the River
They are the nowhere people. They have valid ration cards. Many of them even have voter cards, but they can’t vote.
In the 1970s the Ganga changed its course, turned eastwards, swallowing 60-70 villages around Panchanandapur, 30 km from here, and, along with it, the identity of the voters. Fresh land, formerly beneath the river, was bared over the years, which the displaced villagers occupied.
These lands are called chars. This election, most of the 1.5 lakh people living in the 26-odd chars in the district will not vote as, having left their earlier habitation, their names are not on the electoral rolls.
A short distance from Panchanandapur is a tributary of Ganga in the middle of it stands Hamidpur No 8 Char.
“There are 26 chars, of which eight-ten have human habitation. Hamidpur is one of the new ones,” said Torikul Islam, member, Ganga Bhangan Protirodh Action Nagarik Committee.
“My father was a rich farmer… Then one day, the river wiped away all our land,” said 67-year-old Kulesh Chandra Mondal, who lives in Kataikhan village in Hamidpur char.
Before moving to Hamidpur, the family lived on a new char that had come up on the west bank of the Ganga, a few kms from the Jharkhand border. There they got voter IDs. “Then one day we heard that a char was rising near Hamidpur — we lived there before erosion — and we moved back,” he said. Ever since, they haven’t been able to get their names on the rolls.
“They’ll be enrolled when the lists are revised,” said District Magistrate Sridhar Ghosh, But first, Jharkhand and West Bengal have to decide the territorial right over Hamidpur.