OOP Digital Desk: While the rest of India celebrates Independence Day on 15 August, a nondescript village in West Bengal’s Nadia district observes the day on 18 August every year. Residents of Shivnibas (Shivniwas) village, a few kilometres from the district town, have been following the tradition since 2002.
There is an interesting piece of history as to why 18 August is observed as Independence Day in Shivnibas.
Nadia, a Hindu majority district of undivided Bengal, was awarded to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), courtesy the Partition line drawn by the chief of the boundary commission Cyril John Radcliffe on 9 August 1947. While the tricolour was hoisted all across India on 15 August 1947, it was not flown in Nadia.
A day later, Hindus in the district erupted in protest against Radcliffe’s decision to award Nadia to East Pakistan. The protests soon reached a fever pitch. The last viceroy of India Lord Mountbatten, paranoid that the protests may trigger another bout of communal violence, ordered the Radcliffe Line to be changed to include Nadia in India. An announcement in this regard was broadcast in the evening of 17 August and the Hindu majority district, was incorporated in India.
Mountbatten’s announcement led to celebrations all over the district. People came down on the streets and there were festivities all around. The morning after, 18 August, the Pakistan flag hoisted by the Muslim League was brought down and the Indian tricolour was raised in its place.
But over the decades, the date passed into oblivion and faded from public memory.
Sometime in 1998, Nadia resident Anjan Sukul took the initiative to celebrate 18 August as Independence Day. The authorities rejected his appeal since the laws of the land allow the national flag to be hoisted only on 26 January and 15 August. An indefatigable Sukul appealed several more times and the government finally allowed him to raise the national flag at Shivnibas in 2002.
Since then, the entire village observes 18 August as Independence Day. The main attraction of the celebrations is a women’s boat race, attended by participants come from all over the district.
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