The Garos are an Indigenous tribe who are an ethnic, religious and linguistic minority in both India and Bangladesh. Before the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, the imagination of a Garo homeland included a contiguous landmass where Garos lived predominantly. Under the colonial rule, Garo homeland included parts of what is now Assam and Meghalaya in northeast India and parts of Sylhet, Mymensingh and partially excluded areas of Bangladesh.
The partition divided the larger Garo community against their will into residents of two nation states, India and Pakistan. When Bangladesh was formed, the Garos in east Pakistan became citizens of the new state, Bangladesh.
Mugaipar is in the Sylhet district of Bangladesh, at a distance of around 10 kms from the International border between India and Bangladesh.
A church was established in Mugaipar in 1952 with 20 families, most of who were Garos who came from Mymensingh.
Over the years, the community in Mugaipar has grown around the church and has survived the great exodus of 1964 and the liberation war in 1971. Although the system of Passport and Visa came to effect since 1952, unofficial mobility across the border was feasible.
Inter-marriages, family visits and local trading across the border were common.
In 2011, the construction of the fence by Govt of India along the border began which lead to the increased surveillance by border security forces of India and Bangladesh impacting the mobility of the local communities. What does the reinforcement of fence mean to the lives across the border?
'Across' is a work in progress since 2018, exploring the individual experiences and family histories of the people living in Mugaipar.
It reflects on how ideas of belonging, family, identity and cultural memory are shaped and reinterpreted by the consequences of making of nation states and drawing of borders.
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