The Darjeeling Mail of 1943

This is from a much-copied Bradshaw from 1943. The exact date is not clear. However, by then the Eastern Bengal Railway and Assam Bengal Railway had been merged in a short-lived marriage resulting in the Bengal & Assam Railway in order to facilitate the war against Japan. The US armed forces had then taken over most of the train traffic going into Assam. For once, the British took a back seat in India.

It would be instructive to compare these timings with those of the pre-war period (say 1939) as wartime shortages and military traffic may have reduced speeds considerably. Wartime exigencies caused a number of branch lines in different parts of India to close by 1940, some never to reopen.

The timings of the up and down Mail:

Darj Mail 001

Note that the full details of stations and trains between Sealdah and Ranaghat are not given above. They are given below:

Ranaghat1 001Ranaghat2 001

Coming back to the main timetable above, the future border stations of Gede/Darsana and Chilhati/Haldibari can be seen. Not exactly, as Gede station was built after Partition. The last station on the Indian side in this timetable would be Banpur. On the Pakistani side, the existing Darsana station was felt to be too close to the enemy border so a new Darsana station was built a little further east, which lay on the new main line from Khulna to the north. Similarly New Gitaldaha was built somewhat further from the earlier Gitaldaha which was close to the border.

The old network of the EBR was so Calcutta-centric that important towns in the western half of East Pakistan had never been connected before. Even for that a new line had to be constructed between Jessore and new Darsana, somewhat like the far more complicated Assam Rail Link which India built in 1948-50.

The Hardinge Bridge is near Paksey station.

Also note the station of Hili which lies exactly on the border. The Radcliffe Commission stated that in that area the border was defined as the railway line is. Even till the 2000s  it was considered the easiest place to come and go between India and Bangladesh.

At the northern end, the terminus of Siliguri later became the unimportant station of Siliguri Town, between the newly built major stations of Siliguri Jn to its north and later New Jalpaiguri to the south. The NG line was later extended south to New Jalpaiguri to connect with the broad gauge.

You can also see the BG Assam Mail up to Parbatipur. The MG Assam Mail ran from there via Lalmonirhat, Gitaldaha and Golakganj to the Brahmaputra ferry which ran between Aminigaon and Pandu, with a shuttle connection to Gauhati. Wagons were connected to goods trains going further east. Much of the freight ended up on the Ledo Road to China and the numerous air bases from where US transport aircraft flew to China. The toll of men and machines on these flights over the Himalayas were huge, and many crashed aircraft have not been found even 70 years later. Others continue to be discovered by dedicated researchers: see http://www.miarecoveries.org/

There was the Surma Mail (from the first page) which had a rather tortuous route-Sealdah to Ishurdi and Sirajganj Ghat, connecting steamer to Jagannathganj Ghat, connecting MG train to Mymensingh, Akhaura and Chittagong.

The Calcutta/Ranaghat pages show trains which went to Goalundo Ghat with ferry connections to Narayanganj (for Dacca) and Chandpur (for Silchar). At some time there was also a connection from Chandpur to Chittagong.

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More on India-China border disputes

There are many maps showing areas disputed between India and its neighbors. This is perhaps the most comprehensive. It appeared in the “Economist” some years ago.

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-75d186666dba61850c45d3234cf04ae1

Though you may find this more convenient:

India disputed borders

Note that nothing much had happened in the past in the “central” portion, where China borders Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Now Chinese troops have started intruding there as well-apart from the better-known Barahoti in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, there are also reports from Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

This map of Himachal Pradesh shows the districts:

Himachal districts

We can see that Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts share borders with China.

Now see this map of Kinnaur district:

Kinnaur district

Incursions have been reported in the vicinity of Sumdo.

Here is a Google Maps extract showing the border post of Kaurik:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Kinnaur,+Himachal+Pradesh/@31.9372429,78.4363845,11z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x390643bef5f84a51:0xddfea72b01d3f354!8m2!3d31.6509576!4d78.4751945

Unlike in the case of most of our northern borders, roads seem to exist to within a few km of the border here.

A longer list of disputed areas can be seen here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disputed_territories_of_India

If you are really into maps, you can amuse yourself by accessing Google Maps from google.co.in and other sites such as google.com. The latter will show a lot of “disputed” sections which do not appear in the former. Try it especially on the Uttarakhand and Himachal borders, besides the better-known disputed territories in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

Where is Barahoti?

Every couple of years we see panic in the media over the Chinese entering India at a place called Barahoti in Uttarakhand. It is often forgotten that India has borders with Tibet in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as well as Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. There has been a dispute about Barahoti on record since at least 1954, in the days of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai.

Anyway, the place known as Barahoti is  (as far as I could find) an 80-sq km pasture in Chamoli district. No information about its permanent population and infrastructure seems to be available on the net. It is too obscure to have an article in Wikipedia. Anyway, you can see its location on Google Maps:

https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Bara+Hoti/@30.7725748,79.806493,10z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x39a7b653779ef879:0x3640cb3bd79f5dc!8m2!3d30.833333!4d79.966667

Also this one of Chamoli district:

The nearest town of importance seems to be Joshimath (the tehsil town) and the nearest place of any importance is the village of Malari, which you pass while going to Barahoti and beyond. The motorable road appears to end somewhere here.

The nearest permanent military outpost is at a place called Rimkhim about 10 km from the border and a few km from Barahoti.

In the 1962 was the Chinese armed forces did not bother to do anything here, presumably as their objectives in Ladakh and NEFA were more important.

These articles may be of interest:

http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article1665.html

http://www.firstpost.com/world/history-lesson-why-china-and-india-will-have-to-do-a-swap-743097.html

The first article, in particular, brings out the rather laid-back conditions on the Indian side of the border. Unlike in most of the India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders, no one seems to know or care just where the border is.

You may also find this of interest:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/the-northernmost-points-in-india/

 

The westernmost points of India

According to the Wikipedia article on “Extreme Points of India”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

the westernmost point of India is Guhar Moti in Lakhpat taluk of Kutch district of Gujarat. This article mentions that it is at 23.71307 N, 68.03215 E. This appears to be wrong as it gives a point in the sea. However, the village of Guhar Moti is actually at 23.6076 N, 68.5022 E

which you can see here: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Guhar+Moti,+Gujarat+370601,+India/@23.6201256,68.5272452,14z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x395238a1259c106f:0x66b28d5fd5388930?hl=en

More about this place can be seen here and in line 55 of this

We note that the population of 242 (in the last census) includes 186 belonging to the scheduled castes, 55 to the scheduled tribes and 1 in the general category. In line 56, we see the nearby pilgrimage centre of Narayan Sarovar with a population of 1156. This is larger than the taluk HQ of Lakhpat which is described as a ghost town with a population of 500-odd. It did figure in the 2000 film “Refugee”, which marked the debut of Abhishek Bachchan and  Kareena Kapoor.

Some say that the temple at Koteshwar near Narayan Sarovar is the westernmost point of India, but you can see from the above link to Google maps that this is not true.

Remote as this area may be, it is well connected with roads. There was even a proposal to connect Koteshwar by rail to the nearest railhead at Naliya, but that may have to wait until the closed line from Bhuj to Naliya is converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. Naliya is also the site of India’s westernmost air force base, which hosts Mig-21 fighter aircraft. One of them shot down a Pakistani Navy aircraft near the border in 1999 (more about this below).

This part of Kutch district has a number of industries, mainly based on lignite (brown coal) which is mined nearby. The westernmost industrial unit in India may well be the Akrimota lignite power station on the coast, at 23.7721 N, 68.6442 E.

An overall view of the India-Pakistan border can be seen here

Note the complex border around the Sir Creek. The border is also disputed here, as India and Pakistan differ on the interpretation of a treaty signed between the government of Sind and the ruler of Kutch in 1914. The basic issue here is connected with borders formed by rivers-what happens when the river changes course? More details about the dispute and ongoing negotiations can be seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Creek

Also read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantique_incident

Some literature mentions that the lights of Karachi can be seen from Koteshwar. This may not be true as the distance from here to the centre of Karachi is 200 km.

The border here consists of uninhabited marshlands, which are flooded during the monsoons. Patrolling by boats and aircraft is carried out by both countries. Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Rann_of_Kutch

The Kutch war of 1965 did not concern this area and was confined to the northern borders of Kutch.

The easternmost points of India

We start with this map (which appeared in the Economist some time ago ) to see the various disputed areas involving India, Pakistan and China.

Disputed areas

While the LOC in Kashmir is basically a result of Pakistan grabbing whatever it could in 1947-48, the borders with China are somewhat more complicated, involving treaties by various entities controlling Kashmir, the former NEFA and Tibet over the past two centuries.

There is even a small disputed area called Bara Hoti on the border between Uttarakhand and Tibet, but nothing much happens there. China claims most (but not all) of Arunachal Pradesh; the dark green part of the map is the undisputed part of that state. And Tawang was supposedly governed by Tibet until 1951 before India occupied it.

That bit about Arunachal is necessary to understand this extract from the Wikipedia article on “Extreme points of India”:

East
(disputed, administered)
Kibithu in Anjaw district Arunachal Pradesh Tibet, China 28.01744°N 97.40238°E [4][8]
East (undisputed) Near Kumki, in the Changlang district Arunachal Pradesh Kachin State, Myanmar 27.12622°N 97.16712°E [9]

Kibithu is in the disputed part of Arunachal while Kumki is in the smaller undisputed part.

You can click on the coordinates to get the location on Google Maps or other sites. The first one seems to be wrong as it shows a point in Myanmar. The second one shows a point in India near the border although no place name is given.

This map of Arunachal Pradesh may also be helpful:

Arunachal 2011

You can see Kibithu north of the better-known Walong in Anjaw district.

The place Kumki is not shown here, but would be east of Vijoyanagar (which, like Walong, has an Advanced Landing Ground which can handle medium transport aircraft such as the AN-32 and C-130J ).

As Wikipedia has got it wrong, let us explore Walong and its surroundings in Anjaw district on Google Maps:

https://www.google.com/maps/@28.1383739,97.0662292,11z?hl=en

We have

Walong listed as a cantonment and town, at longitude 97.0167 E

Dong   listed as the easternmost village in India, at longitude 97.04117 E

Kibithu listed as one of the easternmost towns in India and the easternmost             roadhead in India, at longitude 97.0156 E which is west of Walong and Dong.

Also note the tri-junction of India, China and Myanmar about 20 Km west of the Walong-Kibithu route, apparently without any inhabited place in between.

However, the curiously-named village of Dong would  be the easternmost civilian inhabited place in India-even though it consists of 3 huts. In spite of its remoteness it does attract a small number of tourists. Walong is reachable by road via Tezu (which was once served by Vayudoot flights, and now may have Pawan Hans helicopter services run by the state government). Otherwise one can start from Mohanbari airport or Tinsukia railway station.

As a formality, we also visit the “undisputed” easternmost point in the vicinity of Vijoyanagar in Changlang district:

https://www.google.com/maps/@27.1925253,96.9753302,11z?hl=en

There does not seem to be any civilian inhabited place between Vijoyanagar and the Myanmar border. This has a longitude of 96.9939 E which is west of Walong and its neighbours. Changlang district has numerous places of tourist interest (including the Miao sactuary) which can be reached from Mohanbari airport or Tinsukia railway station.

However, life in Vijoyanagar is hard, as you can read here: https://yobindreams.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/non-existence-of-road-inflicts-miseries-a-story-of-vijaynagar-changlang-district/

That is based on an article written in 2009. Perhaps things have improved since then.

Fortunately the western and southern extreme points of India are not so remote, as we will see later.

 

The northernmost points of India (Revised June 2017)

 

There are some countries like Britain whose extreme points are well documented. The little towns of Land’s End and John O’Groats are well-known tourist spots.

In many countries one or more borders and extreme points are in remote areas-particularly so in India’s northern and eastern borders. There is a difference between:

  1. What the Indian government says its borders are
  2. What area is actually controlled by the Indian government
  3. What area is disputed by other countries (though this is really of no concern to the Indian public, one has to see maps published from other countries which show a large area as disputed).

One can also look up the definitions of “de jure” and “de facto” if one wants to be further confused.

Anyway, this Wikipedia article claims to mention all the extreme points of India. For today we deal with the northernmost points, and we will return to the other points later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India

We start with a typical map of Jammu and Kashmir from a school atlas:

If one was to take this seriously, the international borders shown here are the true borders of the India since Independence.

J and K 001

A point of interest is the thin sliver of Afghanistan (known as the Wakhan corridor) bordering India’s territory. Crossing this you enter Tajikstan, formerly part of the USSR.

But what is actually controlled by India? This map from Wikipedia sums it up:

764px-JammuKashmir.svg

Note the green area which has been controlled by Pakistan since shortly after independence, although minor changes have occurred in the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Then there is the Aksai Chin (in beige, like the rest of China and Tibet) which was taken over by China some time in the mid-1950s, without the Indian government or armed forces knowing about it. Also note that a portion of  south-eastern Ladakh is held by India and is marked as disputed.

The Siachen glacier (in white) was not permanently occupied by any government until the Indian armed forces occupied positions there in 1984.

Then there is the Shaksgam valley which is supposed to be in India, and was occupied by Pakistan and later transferred to China.

So you can see that the northern-most point actually occupied by India’s forces would be somewhere near the northern end of Siachen, on the border with Xinjiang province of China.

Now we look back to the Wikpedia article referenced earlier: If you click on the co-ordinates you will end up with a map showing the location. But it may take less time if you first open Google maps or Wikimapia etc and enter the coordinates yourself.

The borders will be shown differently if you are using google.co.in  or, say,   google.com .

 

Heading Location Administrative entity Bordering entity Coordinates[nb 1] Ref
North
(disput-ed, govern–ed
Near Indira Col, Siachen Glacier Indian-administered Kashmir Xinjiang, China 35.674520°N 76.845245°E [3]
North
(disput–ed, claimed)
Dafdar in the Taghdumbash Pamir near Beyik Pass Xinjiang, China Wakhan Corridor, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan 37°24′00″N 75°24′00″E [4]
North
(undis- -puted)
Near Dharwas, Chamba district Himachal Pradesh Indian-administered Kashmir 33.24902°N 76.82704°E [5]

 

The first point shows what may be the northernmost Indian military post at Indira Col in the Siachen, with latitude approximately 35.6745 N.

The second shows a place some distance along the Karakoram highway near Tashkargan, the first town in Xinjiang.

And the third shows the northernmost point of Himachal Pradesh (since the whole of J & K is disputed 🙂 )

This is all rather messy, so you may prefer the map referenced here:

GyongLaNJ9842

which shows the location of Indira Col with reference to the Line of Control.

This article explains the significance of NJ 9842 and the line heading northeast from it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siachen_Glacier

There are a few helipads in the glacier area. One of them, at Point Sonam, has been listed as the world’s highest helipad at 21,000 ft. It is referenced here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helipad

Apart from the location above, there is a built-up area at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) airstrip:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daulat_Beg_Oldi 

which is at 35.390 N . Note the comment:

“Other than Siachen Glacier military bases, it is India’s northernmost built-up area.” There is a nearby small town of Murgo, (35.0411 N) which is not yet connected by motorable road to Leh although some roads exist around DBO.

And DBO is listed as the world’s highest airstrip at 16,600 ft. It was first operated with Packet aircraft in 1962, and now handles AN-32s and C-130Js. References are given in the Wikipedia article.

The northernmost town which can be visited by the Indian public is now Warshi:

http://vargiskhan.com/log/warshi-village-nubra-valley-opened-travelers/nubra-valley-opened-till-warshi-village/

Also see this map for the roads here:

http://vargiskhan.com/log/warshi-village-nubra-valley-opened-travelers/leh-to-nubra-valley-map-with-distances-2/

Warshi’s latitude is 35.0629 N, while the previous northernmost accessible place was Turtuk with 34.8474 N. Turtuk was under Pakistan’s control until 1971.

Fortunately the extreme points in the west, east and south are not so confusing. We visit them next.

Footnote: here is another map of disputed territories, which seems to have appeared in “The Economist” at some point. We will meet it again when we come to the eastern extreme points.

Disputed areas

You may also like this one about disputed territory on the Uttarakhand border:

https://abn397.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/where-is-barahoti/

Tail piece: Indian journalists routinely mis-spell the McMahon line as the MacMohan line, thinking of the second-rung villain of Bollywood:

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/gallery/actor-mac-mohans-life-in-pics/1/3163.html

 

The extreme points of India

We hear the phrase “From Kashmir to Kanyakumari” or the next-door version “from Khyber to Karachi”. In Britain there is “From Land’s End to John O’Groats” which are supposed to be the extreme southwest and extreme northeast points of the British mainland. In contrast, the US gets by with “From sea to shining sea” in one of their patriotic songs.

Ever wondered about the extreme points of India? One may think that the question is answered in the Wikipedia article linked below. Actually it is not as simple as that as there are several different ways of deciding where India ends in the north. (Do you mean what the official atlas says, or the point actually under Indian military control? And since many countries think that Kashmir is a disputed territory, then what should be the “undisputed”northernmost point?)

Even the eastern border is disputed by China although it is firmly in Indian control. The western extreme is a point in the sea off the Gujarat-Sind border. And the southernmost point is not Kanyakumari on the mainland but a remote settlement on an island in the Nicobars, with a population of 27.

We shall be visiting these places over the next few blogposts. We also look at the nearest inhabited places (which are hard to find unless you are at Kanyakumari).

Read this first: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extreme_points_of_India