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Row over naming of Bogibeel bridge in Assam

A view of the Bogibeel bridge in Assam.

A view of the Bogibeel bridge in Assam.  

India’s longest rail- road bridge to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

A row over an apt name has hit the 4.94-km Bogibeel, India’s longest rail and road bridge, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Christmas Day.

On Tuesday, a week ahead of the scheduled inauguration, organisations of the Tai-Ahom community called for a road blockade near the bridge. Their demand: the bridge should be named after Chaolong Siu-ka-pha, who founded the Ahom kingdom in Assam more than 600 years ago.

The threat to block the approach road of the bridge on Thursday followed the Assam government’s proposal to the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to name the bridge as Birangana Sati Sadhani Setu, the last queen of the kingdom controlled by the Chutia community.

The Ahoms and Chutias had fought for territorial control for more than 150 years during the medieval period. It ended in the 1600s with the Ahoms taking over the Chutia domain.

“Naming the bridge after Swargadeo [emperor] Chaolung Siu-ka-pha has been our demand for a long time. There cannot be a better choice as he had united all the communities living in this land to constitute the greater Assamese society,” a spokesperson of Ahom Sabha, one of the Tai-Ahom organisations, said.

A few days ago, the All Assam Chutia Students’ Union had said youths from the community would jump into the Brahmaputra River on the day of its inauguration if their demand to name it after their iconic queen was not met.

Two indigenous communities — Deuri and Mising — also want the bridge to be named after their leaders. While the Deuris want it to be named after Bhimbor Deuri, the Misings insist that the best name would be Swahid Kamala Miri.

“Much of the land given for the bridge belonged to people of our community. No one deserves to be honoured more than Swahid Miri,” a spokesperson of Takam Mising Porin Kebang, a non-governmental organisation, said.

The banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent too had proposed a name, Bishnu-Jyoti Bridge, after Assam’s cultural icons Bishnu Prasad Rabha and Jyoti Prasad Agarwala.

Non-local names

Non-local names for the bridge are doing the rounds too. The Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Dibrugarh, Prashanta Phukan, wants the bridge to be named Atal Setu, after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Vajpayee had inaugurated the construction work of the bridge — connecting Dibrugarh and Dhemaji districts across the Brahmaputra — in 2002 though former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda had laid its foundation stone in 1997.

British philanthropist

If that were not enough, a section of people in Dibrugarh has proposed the name of John Berry White, a British philanthropist who played a major role in the development of medical facilities and rail and road communication in Assam more than a century ago.

Some locals, though, feel the bridge should simply be named Bogibeel.

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 8:34:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/row-over-naming-of-bogibeel-bridge-in-assam/article25776109.ece

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