The area surrounding Periferry, that is the Sukreswar ghat is a wasteland. Its existence depends on the waning and waxing of the river Brahmaputra. Six months of the year it is gulped down by the river and for the rest of the year it works as a public space. Accessible to all, it’s used for various purposes- as a river port, dhobi ghat, dumping ground, bathing area, picnic spot and a space for several other micro-social activities, from strolling, playing, worshiping to asthi visarjan- last rites where the Hindus immerse the ashes of the dead person to the flowing river. Like Foucault’s heterotopia this wasteland reflects and subverts all other city-spaces related to it.
The Brahmaputra is the border between the North and South banks. North Guwahati being rural and South Guwahati being urban. Though both the banks can be tagged as wastelands but our field of inquiry is the South bank which is conjoined to the expanding city of Guwahati.
Land nick names, Neologisms and slang terms:Ghat, river front, pothar, sor
AddressOff Sukreswar ghat, Guwahati, India
Size of the Land in sqm (approx.)
- - Big trees on the southern bank
- - Grass in patches
- - Mud
- - Sand
- - Sediments of the river
- - Shrubs
- - Carcass of animals
- - City drains going through that area
- - Dhobi ghat- Clothes left for drying on the ropes tied on bamboo poles
- - Disused ferries
- - Dumped materials
- - Dumped materials- plastic bags
- - Fishing nets tied to bamboo structures.
- - Flowers used for worshiping strewn here and there.
- - Noise from the nearby Mahatma Gandhi Road.
- - Remants of clay idols of hindu dieties immersed in the river after worshiping
- - Shanties can be seen on some areas of the wasteland
- - Size of the land changes seasonally according to the flow of water in the river.
- - Stray animals
- - View of the northern bank of the river Brahmaputra
- - Wharfs to dock amd moor smaller vessals to load and unload cargo or passengers
- sand beaches
- View of the river
Land status and definition
- In Public Ownership
Current Land Owner
State Government of Assam
Current Land Owner - Additional Info
The legal status of the area is ambiguous though. Some portion of it is used by Assam State Tourism Department , some of it by Inland Water Transport Department and Public Works Department. Parks and restaurants are being set up in the area, which have semi-private ownership.
In India, a piece of land which is not owned by any private party is considered to be under the legislation of the government. The government has the right to make construction on the land or make whatever use of it.
Known intended future use by the land owner(s)
It is observed that the government is planning to develop the river front by setting up parks and introducing luxury cruises , which have semi-private ownership.
From the medieval times the river bank has functioned as a river port. It has also been used for fishing purposes. In colonial times the Britishers developed it as a major port for the transportation of people and goods through the river by steamers.
The banks of Brahmaputra entangles itself with history, myths, lore, memory and psychological-spaces of natives of the valley. Many old Assamese texts, such as Lakshminath Bezbaruah’s play “Joymoti” refers to the people living at the sand banks as ‘Soria’. These people were migrants from western borders of Assam and employed themselves in various odd jobs in Assam. In some texts they are referred as beggars and spies, their identity called into question. Even at present, immigration of people from Bangladesh to Assam is still continuing. They still settle in the river bed of Brahmaputra and we can even notice shanties in the south bank Guwahati . Occupying a liminal space, which is there but not there. Inherent paradox of the space reflects in their nebulous identity. Who are the Bangladeshis of Assam? How to identify them? Answers to these question takes one to the never ending labyrinthine spaces of politics, economics, history and geography.
In the present context, the existence of the river itself can be called into question. Already there are unconfirmed reports of China building a large dam to divert the waters of the river to its drought ridden areas. This can have serious consequences for the people living downstream as it may alter the annual flood cycle of the river.
Access - Free Description
The land is accessible to the general public from some point, as semi-private parks have restricted the entry to the area without the payment of entry fee.It can be accessed by land through man made paths by the side of Mahatma Gandhi Road and by water through the ferries coming from the north banks of Guwahati. Restaurants such as Jolporee, South Coast, bars and night clubs such as Kamakazi and Alfresco river cruise have restricted the free entry to the area from certain points.
It is an open space with the river on its northern side and M G Road on its southern side. The area does not have a well defined border. Though different government departments and semi-private parties are using it for various purposes but they have not well defined the areas of operations.
Land is occupied by
- - Beggars from the nearby Sukreswar temple frequent the area
- - Dhobies or laundry service providers
- - Fishermen with small wooden boats
- - Homeless people
- - People selling goods in make shift markets
- - Ragamuffins.
- - Staffs of Inland Water Transport Department
- -Vendors selling flowers
- General public
Activities - Free Description
- Functions as a dhobighat, for washing clothes by the laundry service providers.
- Used by boatmen. Some are government employes living in the government owned ferries and the rest are boatmen of private country made ferries or bhotbhoti, which run across the river to transport people and good. The bhotbhoties are small ferries with their hulls made of wood, roofs made with corrugated sheets and they are driven by small motor engines.
- Used for religious purposes such as Chhath Puja and Durga Puja. The Bihari community living in Assam worship the sun-god during Chhath Puja on the banks of Brahmaputra. On Durga Puja the clay idols of the goddess Durga are brought to the ghat and immersed in the river.
- Used as a bathing area.
- Playing cricket
- A place for hanging out
- Consignments of bamboo, vegetables, sugarcane and other goods are unloaded in the port.
- Temporary storage of goods
- Fish market
- Though pay and use toilets are being introduced in the area but many men pee on the open area of the river bank.
- Unorganised activities such as gambling, playing cards etc.