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Photo Essay: Life on Bengal’s Historic Jessore Road

Jessore Road, which connects India and Bangladesh, once witnessed carnage, smuggling, migration and trade.

Jessore road is the link from Kolkata to Bangladesh. It ferries lots of trucks and is the countries largest trade corridor. Credit: Shome Basu/The Wire

Jessore Road is the link from Kolkata to Bangladesh. It ferries many trucks and is the country’s largest trade corridor. Credit: Shome Basu/The Wire

Jessore Road starts from the edge of Shyam bazaar in north Kolkata and ends at Jessore in Bangladesh’s Khulna district. The road exists since the days of the Turkish attacks on Bengal in the 12th century. Although sectors of the road are part of two national highways – the Dum Dum–Barasat sector is part of NH 12 and the Barasat–Petrapole sector is now part of NH 112  – Jessore Road looks very different. It is not broad, has no dividers, is prone to accidents and the traffic is slow, despite it being a major trade route.

Jessore Road has been witness to carnage, smuggling, migration and trade. It saw action during the first war of independence in 1857 at the ammunition factory in Dum Dum. It saw the construction of the country’s first golf course (the land is now part of the Kolkata airport), as well as being part of the refugee exodus in 1947 and 1971.

Despite being a trade route, Jessore Road is narrow, has no dividers and no emergency facilities that are found on other major routes. There is also hardly any security on the road. The only people you see are locals from the village.

An ironsmith along the Jessore Road. Lorrie drivers visit the ironsmiths for tools. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire                                      

A road side tea shop provides snacks and tea for the locals and traders. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

A roadside tea shop provides snacks and tea for the locals and traders. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Locals along the India-Bangladesh border of Bashirhaat division. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Locals along the India-Bangladesh border of the Basirhat subdivision. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Bangladeshi porters at the truck bay area deloading the consigment that has to be transported to the other side. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

A border security guard (Indian central armed police) guards the India-Bangladesh border along the Petrapole-Benapole side. Cattle smuggling is a big challenge for them. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

The rail link between India and Bangladesh. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Baduria village along the Jessore Road. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

A tourist who works as a businessman is waiting to enter Bangladesh while the Indian customs official checks his credentials. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Children spend their evenings in the vast fields along the border and the Ichamati river. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire

Vast fields along the border and Ichamati river children play to spend their evenings. Credit: Shome Basu/ The Wire