Identity crisis, feelings of deprivation, exploitation and political oppression, and painful memories of home form the backdrop of a collection of stories of people who settled in Assam’s Barak Valley after being displaced from Bangladesh.
Barbed Wire Fence: Stories of Displacement from the Barak Valley of Assam is a collection of 17 short stories that express the myriad facets of the immigrant experience of people from present-day Bangladesh who had to leave their native land during and after India's independence and settle, among other places, in the Barak valley of Assam.
Some stories in the book, edited by Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and Dipendu Das and published by Niyogi, explore the anguished sorrow of alienation while others speak of the turmoil of fractured identities.
The tales try to capture the essence of the struggle for survival; the elemental fight against deprivation, social exploitation and political oppression.
"Owing to many reorientations of the boundary of Assam and the migration to the state in the colonial and post- colonial periods, Bengali today is one of the largest linguistic groups in Assam," the writers say.
"The Bengalis are concentrated more densely in the Barak Valley of Assam comprising three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. It needs to be mentioned that dislocation and displacement, often voluntary and mostly under duress, and the resulting human crisis are inseparable parts of the history of the Bengali community."
According to the authors, the selection of the stories for the anthology has been made on the basis of the context of issues concerning displacement.
"The negotiation of the issues of displacement and marginalisation are ingrained in the texts," the authors say.
Bhattacharjee, who taught Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, was Editor of Sahitya Akademi's journal, Indian Literature and also Director of National Book Trust at Delhi. Das teaches English at Assam University in Silchar.
According to Das, the genesis of the book was a national seminar on Marginal Literature several years back, where the delegates from different parts of India informed him that they were unaware of the fact that a huge number of Bengalis live in Assam and produce literature in Bengali.
That sparked the idea of publishing a book representing one of the most significant issues in the lives not merely of Bengali people of Assam, but also in the post-colonial studies, he says.
Barbed Wire Fence: Tales of Displacement
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