Indian Muslims in West Bengal are facing a famine as the banks of the expanding Padma River engulf old villages and destroy farmland in the agricultural district of Murshidabad on the border with Bangladesh.

For a decade, the river’s changing course has caused nearstarvation conditions and residents have taken to eating roots and leaves, leading to widespread disease and malnutrition. A resident of one village says there are 692 people on the brink of death from starvation there.

Most villagers have not received below poverty line ration cards for subsidized foods, the distribution of which is controlled by the Communist Party of IndiaMarxist. The cards would allow residents to buy subsidized rice and entitle them to at least 1 00 days of work annually. Those who have received cards have been cheated out of their share, with local party workers collecting a “tax” for the party fund. Jobs are rare and low paying.

Jalangi is a resettlement town built after the river swallowed the old town, which now lies on Padma’s eastern bank. Jalangi’s underground water contains dangerous levels of arsenic.

The editor of the Delhi-based Milli Gazette has filed a petition with India’s Supreme Court about the starvation conditions and has begun the Charity Alliance, which is focusing on the Murshidabad famine (www.charityalliance.in).

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at islamicamagazine.com as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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