Over the years, as I have documented the lives of communities living – and dying – in Bangladesh-India borderlands, it has become clear to me that the barbed-wire fences aren’t just territorial boundaries, but also meeting points. This paradoxical nature of the border cannot be separated from the violence faced by those living alongside it, who are often treated as criminals by both states, and who have radically different experiences and conceptions of the border from many of us.
Growing up close to Bangladesh’s border with India, I was aware that smuggling of goods floated the local economy. Yet why someone would risk their lives in such a deadly trade when smuggling was public knowledge, including to the local law enforcements on both sides of the border, was never clear to me. Naive of the inequities of regional geopolitics, I asked, why were the victims always from Bangladesh?
Crossing the border may often mean taking a bullet, but for the people living in the borderlands, the other side is not necessarily another land or another nation. Kinship ties disrupted by the birth of modern-day nation states like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have not been completely broken. And links created by economic and practical needs continue to deepen in unanticipated ways.
I have often felt inadequate when dealing with such delicate and violent realities of the border-fence. These photographs aim to tell contemporary stories of brutal interruptions, inflicted by our states upon our peoples, amid a much longer history of connections and continuities in Southasia.
Parvez Ahmed Rony has been working as a photojournalist for about eight years. Currently with Drik Picture Library, he has worked for a number of national dailies including The Independent and Daily Khola Kagoj, and has contributed photos to various international agencies. His work has been part of several national and international exhibitions, but he takes special pride in the roadside exhibitions he has organised and curated.