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Friday, October 2, 2009

Sealtek, British era trade centre in ruins

SILCHAR, Oct 2: Sealtek, a nondescript cluster of villages under Katigorah police station of Cachar situated at a distance of 25 km from here, was once a brimming and booming trade centre during the British era but is now in ruins. History has been a mute witness to the flourishing sprawling market, a bustling steamer-ghat, a Munsif Court as well as modest residential brick houses. The only connecting road of Sealtek with the important places of Barak Valley and beyond, built during the Hedemba dynasty, lies in a dilapidated condition.

A senior citizen, A K Matin Ahmed Barlaskar of Katigorah said that during the pre independence period, the Cachar administrative head who was also called the Superintendent ran the administration of the region with assistance from Dacca Divisional Commissioner on revenue and security matters. Besides this, he also used to be in touch with the Sylhet district and session judge and the political agent of Manipur and kept them posted with development on judicial and political affairs.

Barlaskar quoted a letter dated July 7, 1842, written by the then Superintendent Macullock to the Sylhet district and sessions judge which read, “in regard to Sealtek ghat, it was sold in public auction at Rs 540 above the last lease.” He at the same time referred to a relevant portion from the book Cachar under British rule in Northeast by Jayanta Kumar Bhattacharjee which says, “the ports’ call for the large steamers in Cachar were Badarpur, Sealtek, Jatinghamookh and Machimpur.”

From these references, Barlaskar pointed out that the historical importance of Sealtek could hardly be missed. All disputes relating to import and export of various commodities, essential and non essential, from the Sealtek port were settled in the local Munsif Court here. Jayanta Bhusan Bhattacharjee wrote in the said history book, “in 1853, a Munsif Court was established at Sealtek to deal with numerous cases originating from trade through this transit station of Cachar. Babu Baidyanath Deb was the Munsif at Sealtek at that time.” Bhattacharjee further added, “Jirighat on Manipur border was important for Cachar-Manipur trade with Sealtek which was known as the transit station of Cachar.”

It is a clear indication regarding the importance of Sealtek as the centre of trade and commerce. Goods from Sylhet and other places were brought here by steamers and boats for sale. The goods and commodities for marketing and sale included vegetables, pulses, rice, spices, handicraft and bamboo products, poultry, betel leaf and nuts, various sorts of raw materials, cane products and furniture as well as things made of clay. Traders not only came from different parts of Barak Valley but also from Tripura.

It is a sad commentary that this unique trade centre is now lost in the depths of time. The public here have, therefore, opined for reviving the lost glory of the place by having better road connectivity, power arrangement as well as potable water facilities. Since the old trade centre has been dissolved by erosions of the Barak, demand for a permanent and concrete market place and to link it with the proposed national waterways between Lakhipur and Karimganj and its extension to Kolkata via Bangladesh has been made. THE SENTINEL

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