By: Chandan Borgohain
March 13 2023
Till 2014, Assam had three bridges at different locations on the river Brahmaputra.
In the Indian state of Assam, bridges on the Brahmaputra river have always been a contested topic, escalating to 'bridge politics' becoming a catchphrase in the state's political landscape. Two separate video reports by EastMojo and The Quint, aired in March 2021, show how different political parties of the state use bridges as part of their vote bank agendas during elections.
Recently, a claim has been circulating that till Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014, there was only one bridge over the river. On March 7, author and columnist Abhishek Banerjee tweeted that "Till 2014, there was just ONE bridge across Brahmaputra," whereas "today there are 6 bridges". The claim, which was then echoed by others on the platform, has gained over 16K retweets so far and over 326.9k views.
However, this is not true. Till 2014, there were not one but three bridges over the river.
The first bridge that was constructed on the river Brahmaputra is the Saraighat bridge at Guwahati. According to a report by The Times of India, the rail-cum-road bridge, named after the historic Battle of Saraighat, completed its golden jubilee in November 2012. The report states that the bridge was constructed between 1959 and 1962. A book titled "Forever Guwahati," published by the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), states that the 1.3 kilometer bridge was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on June 7, 1963.
The second bridge on the river, the Kolia Bhomora Setu connecting Tezpur and Kaliabor, was inaugurated in 1987 by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The bridge was named after Ahom General Kolia Bhomora Phukan. Regional daily newspaper, The Sentinel, reported in November 2022 that the bridge was undergoing major repair work, the first since its inauguration. The report also adds that the newly constructed two-lane bridge parallel to the old Kolia Bhomora Setu was temporarily opened on November 2, 2022, as the latter was closed for vehicular traffic due to repair work.
The third bridge that was built before 2014 on the Brahmaputra was the Naranarayan Setu at Jogighopa in the Bongaigaon district. The bridge was inaugurated by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on April 15, 1998. Video footage uploaded on the YouTube channel WildFilmsIndia shows Vajpayee addressing the public at the inauguration ceremony of the bridge. The 2.284 kilometers-long rail-cum-road bridge was constructed by The Braithwaite Burn & Jessop Construction Company Limited. The firm's website states that the bridge was opened to traffic in 1999.
It is to be noted an article published by The Print on March 4, had also falsely mentioned that till 2014 Assam had only one bridge on the river Brahmaputra. We have found an archived version of the article where it wrote, "As of 2014, all of the Brahmaputra river flowing through Assam had only one narrow bridge." The website has since corrected the mistake and changed the number of bridges to three.
Till 2014, three bridges, and not one as claimed, were built at different locations on the river Brahmaputra in Assam. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.