Monday, 25 April 2005

Border tension flares as BSF kills 2 more

Takes away the bodies; India denies troops build-up along Akhaura border
Staff Correspondent

Only three days into striking an accord to exercise maximum restraint at border, Indian Border Security Force (BSF) without any reported provocation yesterday shot down two Bangladeshi citizens on the no man's land in Moheshpur upazila of Jhenidah district.

The Indian border guards also took away the bodies of Jahidul Islam, 24, son of Delwar Hossain of Jadavpur village, and Aktar Hossain, 30, son of Solaiman of Barabari village of the upazila, Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) sources said.

Earlier, on Friday night, a BSF team entered Tarapur village in Kasba upazila of Brahmanbaria district causing panic among the villagers.

The latest shooting stoked up once again the Indo-Bangladesh border tension brewing since April 16 skirmishes at Akhaura that had simmered down to some extent last Wednesday, following negotiations between Dhaka and New Delhi at diplomatic and other planes. Border guards of both the countries have been blaming each other for opening fire first and thus triggering the shootout that left a 10-year-old Bangladeshi girl and a BSF assistant commandant dead.

With yesterday's killings, 387 Bangladeshis have been killed by BSF in the last five and a half years, according to the statistics compiled by Odhikar, a rights watchdog of Bangladesh. Besides, the Odhikar report said, 1,863 persons have suffered human rights violations by Indian miscreants in the period at north and southwestern borders.

"With continued infiltration into Bangladesh territory and killings, abductions and tortures by BSF personnel, the Indo-Bangla border has turned into a human disaster," remarked Odhikar.

Earlier, on Friday night, a BSF team entered Tarapur village in Kasba upazila of Brahmanbaria district causing panic among the villagers.

A BSF team based at Haripur opened fire on the two Bangladeshi villagers early yesterday when they went on the no man's land to send a message to their relatives across the border, sources at 9 BDR Battalion said quoting the victims' families.

They were killed near pillar number 49 on the no man's land about half a kilometre off Gopalpur border observation post (BOP) of BDR, sources said. The bodies had been lying near the border pillar for a long time, they said, adding BSF troops later dragged them into Indian territory.

The incident triggered off widespread panic among the people living in the bordering areas of the southwestern district.

BDR yesterday sent a letter to the BSF high command strongly protesting against the killings of two innocent Bangladeshis without any provocation, UNB quoted the commanding officer of Jessore-based 25 BDR Battalion, Lt Col Motahar Hasan, as saying.

Hasan said the letter also urged BSF to return the bodies and proposed a flag meeting to BSF.

BDR asked the people living in frontier areas to move carefully and not to go near the zero line, he added.

Talking to BBC Radio last night BSF officials in Kolkata admitted that two Bangladeshi youths were killed early yesterday in firing by BSF personnel.

According to their narration, a group of five to six Bangladeshis tried to enter North 24 Pargana of West Bengal through Madhupur border at 3:00am. The BSF personnel asked them to retreat, but the miscreants pelted brickbats at the BSF troops. The BSF men then fired four rounds and killed two Bangladeshis.

The BSF officials also admitted to having two bodies at their possession. The bodies would be sent for autopsy and every thing would be done according to the law, a BSF official told BBC.

UNB reports: Some 25 BSF men intruded 200 yards into Tarapur village in Kasba upazila at about 11:00pm Friday night.

Villagers said apprehending trouble they raised alarming cries and started running in panic. Hearing them, a BDR patrol party came quickly but refrained from firing at the trespassers and allowed them return to their territory.

The villagers termed the BSF action provocative, intended to escalate the border trouble.

An earlier report said BDR-BSF flag meeting at Akhaura border on Thursday night ended in a fiasco. The meeting broke at 8:30pm on information of BSF firing at Singerbeel border that left three people of Nalgoria village injured.

Sources close to the meeting said the BSF side was stubborn, even unwilling to accept Indian press reports that they had trespassed into Bangladesh territory on April 16 triggering the gunfight.

BSF also rejected a BDR proposal for joint inquiry into the April 16 incident, the sources added.

Meanwhile, the ministry of home affairs of India denied Bangladesh press reports on its deploying additional troops along the Akhaura border.

The additional director general (East) of BSF under the ministry in a letter to the Indian high commission in Dhaka on Friday said, "no additional deployment of BSF or deployment of Army has been made on Indian side as has been reported in Bangladesh Newspapers."

The letter then narrated another shooting at border on Thursday night, "Fact of the case is as under: On 21/04-05 at about 1945 hrs (IST) BOP Bhagalpur (Tripura) observed 7-8 Bangladeshi miscreants attempting to breach fence. The miscreants were challenged and directed to surrender. But they did not pay any heed. Instead they started pelting stones and other missiles including Dah towards BSF party. Sensing imminent danger to their life, the BSF party fired only 3 rds in a professional and restrained manner to thwart attempt of fence breaching. Miscreants fled away to Bangladesh."

"BSF, individually or in group, did not enter into Bangladesh territory. Report 'a group of BSF of India entered 400 yards inside of Bangladesh territory is malicious and mischievous with evil design," the letter claimed at the end.

Against the backdrop of the recent border skirmishes, veteran CPI (M) leader and former chief minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu said India should immediately initiate dialogue with Dhaka to resolve the bilateral issues.

"We want friendship with Bangladesh, but there are some problems. The UPA government is also concerned," Basu told reporters in Kolkata last Friday responding to the question whether India should start a peace process with Bangladesh similar to that with Pakistan, reported daily the Hindu.

"Reports also say that Indian insurgent groups are taking shelter in that country. So, dialogue should begin immediately to resolve these problems," Basu remarked.