Friday, November 24, 2017

From Jahaijjar Char to Swarna Dwip: A shoal transforms into a military training ground

  • Kazi Enamul Haq, Comilla Correspondent
    Published: 2017-07-18 00:06:12 BdST


It was a shoal in the sea that once served as a paradise for robbers and pirates. The name it had – ‘Jahaijjar Char’ – was also given based on a 25-year-old local legend about a ship getting stuck and later sinking on its shallow beach.

But in the last four years, the shoal, surrounded by sea, river and forest, has gone through extensive infrastructure development and transformed into a 370-square-kilometre island.

Now, it serves as a training ground for the Bangladesh Army.

It also has a new name – ‘Swarna Dwip’, which in English roughly translates to ‘The Golden Island’. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did the rechristening when she visited it a while back.

The army’s 33rd Infantry Division from Comilla Cantonment is now in command of the island, situated nearly six kilometres into the sea from Subarnachar’s Katakhal in Noakhali, while the Comilla Area Command oversees the whole operation.

On Monday afternoon, the army had invited a group of journalists to visit the development work in the island, which according to the officials, serves as one of the country’s modern military training centres.

The shoal came on the security forces’ radar seven years ago when a Rapid Action Battalion operation killed one of the local pirate leaders, Bashar Majhi.

After the elite police unit recovered a big cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives from there, the army had gone in and decimated the hideouts of the robbers and pirates.

Major Md Tawhid Ali, while going to the island on Monday on a trawler, told reporters that the army took control of the shoal on Mar 8, 2013, and later started the development work.

On Apr 2, 2014, he said, they also recovered a huge cache of weapons and ammunition abandoned by the pirates.

‘Swarna Dwip’s’ taskforce headquarters coordinating officer Maj Azad said, “The army has done some major infrastructural development in the island. The whole island has been turned into a modern military training centre.”

He said seven brigades with heavy weaponries usually train in this island every year. Since 2014, 14 brigades have received military training here.

Apart from military training, the establishment also has the advanced training facilities and its own administration.

Major Azad said the army has also planted over 63,000 saplings and trees on the island, including coconut and other fruit trees.

Environment and Forests Minister Anwar Hossain Manju is scheduled to visit ‘Swarna Dwip’ on Tuesday to inspect the infrastructure development.

Area Commander Rashed Amin of the army’s Comilla Area Command, who is also the 33rd Infantry Division’s GOC, and other top military officials will accompany the minister.