DIBRUGARH, Nov 19 � The numerous sandbars or the char sapori within the Brahmaputra near here have become transient pastures for thousands of cattle of many livestock farmers. Scores of cattle like cows, sheep and buffalo graze on the grassy shore during the lean season. Progressive farmers have also begun using some tracts for agricultural purposes.
The vast char area near the Kaila Ghat, barely a kilometre off the office of the Superintendent of Police here, is one such place where the livestock farmers have put up temporary sheds as shelter for themselves and their cattle. These temporary settlers are primarily dairy farmers who eke out their living by selling milk and grown calves. A majority of them are from the Bogibeel area, while some hail from the town. Most of the farmers are goalas with surnames like Yadav and Prasad.
They neither have potable water facility nor any other medical or shopping facilities on the sandbars. They defecate in the open as they do not have toilets. They use the river water for cooking and for all other needs. They come along with their cattle to the char area during the spring season when the shores are covered with carpets of lush grass following the initial showers. When the paddy fields are open for the cattle after the harvests are over, the farmers go back with their cattle to their respective houses. �We come after the Bohag Bihu and leave by the end of December every year,� Makhan Yadav, who owns about a hundred cows, said.
Life for these farmers in the sandbars is far from peaceful. They not only risk their lives by staying on changs (raised bamboo or wooden structures) when the Brahmaputra is in full spate during the monsoons, but are also prepared to go hungry for at least three days. During peak floods, the water level rises to about waist level in the high-sedimented sandbars, and not above. The cattle obviously move away to higher char areas to protect themselves when the surging river water covers the shores, Makhan said. There are 16 livestock farmers like Makhan near the Kaila Ghat area who have khutis (farm house).
The ordeal that the farmers go through is much beyond natural calamities. They confront thugs and dacoits during the nights. They are frequently attacked and tortured by armed gangs of robbers, who pick up well-built cattle and carry them away on gun point. �The armed and masked men come in a group of about 15. Some carry guns, while others possess sharp weapons like axe, dao and daggers. They tie us up and then select the healthy cattle. Whoever raises a hue and cry is beaten up black and blue. They then carry the cattle by motorboats,� Boliram Prasad, another senior dairy farmer said. Every time they carry away not less than 20 cattle heads, he added.
The farmers were sharing their untold miseries while also narrating the notorious activities of the area before members from the Dibrugarh Press Club on the sidelines of National Press Day celebration on Sunday at the sapori.
It has been the tradition of Dibrugarh Press Club to mark National Press Day by reaching out to the unreached, particularly those who never had an opportunity to express their concerns or where the mainstream media has failed to reach.
The worst part is that the gullible farmers have no faith on the policemen. Lodging complaint with the police about theft and attack is only an expense. We never get back our stolen cattle, so why should we spend money in police complaints, they ask. �On one occasion we had gone after the robbers with a team of police battalion from the town, but were subsequently surrounded and threatened by more then 40 armed people. As the policemen were overpowered, we had to retreat,� Prasad recalled.
The char area has become an alternative during the lean season for the farmers to graze their cattle. These sandbars extend from Aithan to Nagaghulie, the farmers said. If reclaimed or scientifically maintained, the area can definitely be converted into an economically rewarding stretch for the farmers.