Demagiri, or Tlabung, in Western Mizoram near to the India-Bangladesh border, is a British era village (now a sub town). The British had set up their foremost frontier post here during the Lushai Expedition in 1871-72 and finally annexed the Lushai hills in 1890s. Demagiri was the gateway of British conquest of Lushai hills (present day Mizoram) and Lt Col TH Lewin had set up his headquarters here. The British came to conquer Lushai hills through the Karnafuli river, also known to Chakmas as Borgang, over which the mighty Kaptai Dam was built by the East Pakistan government in 1960s.
Tragically, as of date there is no bridge over the Karnafuli river. The river which has swollen due to the Kaptai Dam waters, divides Indian villages and as many as 17 Indian villages, predominantly inhabited by Chakma tribal people, are on the other side of the river (bordering Bangladesh). An estimate stated that around 7,000 people live on the other side of the Karnafuli river.
The villages which are situated on the other side of the Karnafuli river are (1) Nunsury I, (2) Nunsury II, (3) Bindiasora, (4) Tablabagh I, (5) Tablabagh II, (6) Tablabagh III, (7) Kalapani, (8) Lokkisury, (9) Malsury, (10) Devasora, (11) Puankhai, (12) Nakruksora, (13) Bandiasora, (14) New Balukiasuri, (15) Saichen, (16) Hmundo and (17) Mauzam.
Due to lack of a bridge over the Karnafuli river which according to me is one of the biggest rivers of Mizoram, flowing into Bangladesh, these border people are facing untold sufferings and remained disconnected with the rest of India.
Every day, dozens of tribal school children from the other side of the river put their lives at risk while crossing the fearful river of Karnafuli by small boats to come to schools at Demagiri (Tlabung) which is on the opposite side of the river (Indian side). (See the photograph of school children dangerously crossing the Karnafuli river by small boat at the risk of their lives while going to school.)
The only civil hospital is also situated at Demagiri which is inaccessible to the border people living on the other side of the river. In the absence of a bridge over the Karnafuli river, the villagers are forced to take motor boats which are quite expensive for the impoverished villagers. Lack of ability to pay the ferry charges directly result in denial of access to markets, banking and post office, schools, and communication facilities etc.
If a bridge is constructed over the Karnafuli river, the border inhabitants of these villages shall be uplifted not only economically in terms of access to markets and business but also in terms of access to education, health services, and other social welfare facilities.
Above all, a bridge over the Karnafuli river will restore freedom of movement of these Indian citizens within their country from which they have been tragically deprived in independent India.
Therefore, the Government of India/Government of Mizoram should take urgent measures to build a bridge over the Karnafuli river at Demagiri.