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.
Ghat, river front, pothar, sor
Off Sukreswar ghat, Guwahati, India
State Government of Assam
<p>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.</p> <p>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.</p>
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.
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.