By Hantigiri Narzary
Kokrajhar (Assam),Jan 18 : The 10th Indo-Bhutan Friendship Fair and 68th Subankhata Maghw Mela has began with a eight day long programme at Subankhata along the India-Bhutan border border in Assam’s Baksa district on Friday .
Hundreds of visitors from both India and Bhutan thronged the venue on the opening day . This fair is organised every year during third week of January to celebrate the bond between the two friendly countries and showcases the culture and traditions of both the countries.
The Indo-Bhutan friendship fair is being organized to boost bilateral relations between India and Bhutan as a part of confidence building measures at Subankhata along the Indo-Bhutan border in Assam’s Baksa district for the past ten years. The citizens of greater Subankhata area, situated in the northern part along the Bhutan border in Baksa district of Assam has been organizing Maghw Fair since six decades where citizens from both India and Bhutan come to the fair every year and have a feel of peace and unity among society in the region.
The Bhutanese merchants from Pemagatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar sell mandarin,ginger, soyabean, and potatoes etc during the fair .
Earlier ,Bhutanese merchants used to camp at Subankhata for months and witness the fair and recount the fun and wonders they experienced with their friends and family back home and tradition of Bhutanese going down to Subankhata continued well until 1990s. But security issues along the border brought a drastic change .
With passage of time the age-old Magh fair continued to be organised on the other side of the border. A decade ago, Maghw fair committee and members of Bhutan-India Friendship Association (BIFA) met to revive this old tradition.
The Bhutanese populace were encouraged to put up stalls to showcase Bhutanese tradition and cultural programmes and thus Maghw renamed as Indo-Bhutan Friendship Fair. During the fair the cuisine and culture, which are the best ways to foster relationship , pays an important part in the Indo-Bhutan mela.
Bodoland Territorial Council executive member Bijit Gwra Narzary inaugurated the main gate of the fair amidst huge crowd on the inaugural day. Earlier a senior officer from the Indian army based at Subankhata Lakeswar Darma inaugurated fair entry gate .
Deputy commissioner of Baksa Ranjan Sarma and Bhutanese representative and general secretary of BIFA Norbu Wangdi jointly hoisted Indian flag and Bhutanese flag respectively to mark the colourful event .
Stalls serving both Bhutanese Bodo and Assamese cuisine were set up to the huge crowd . Traditional dances during the fair provided a window to the culture and traditions of both the countries . A photo exhibition that showcased cordial relations that exists between both the countries was also held during the fair which inaugurated by Chapaguri MLA Thaneswar Basumatary.
General Secretary of Bhutan India Friendship Association(BIFA) Norbu Wangdi said that the fair has been able to bring cooperation and understanding between both the countries which is increasing with every year and this maghw fair is paving the way for boosting economic activities amongst both the countries.
We (Bhutanese) are visiting the Indo-Bhutan friendship fair, which is organised every year and is the best way for the people from both the countries to unite , said a visitor who has been attending the fair for the past many years .
Member of Bodoland Territorial Council(MCLA) and chief patron of the fair committee Phalindra Basumatary said that that the fair is being organised every year to foster a deep relation and cooperation between India and Bhutan .
“The Indo-Bhutan friendship fair at Subankhata is to celebrate the bond between India and Bhutan, is an outcome of Maghw Fair which is a joint effort of the Magh fair committee and Bhutan India Friendship Association( BIFA) members for the past ten years, though the Magh fair is being organised for six decades along the Bhutan border at Subankhata”, Basumatary said .