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BSF-BDR stand-off forces Pyrdiwah villagers to flee
Published on 19 Jul. 2009 11:18 PM IST
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Panic reigned supreme in Pyrdiwah village, near the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya sector, as villagers are moving to safer grounds with the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) engaged in a stand-off over border dispute. Panic-stricken villagers feared that the BDR might repeat the April 2001 incursion after Bangladeshi nationals recently started plantation activity, in a recreation of the 2001 besiege. "The villagers, especially the women and children have started moving to safer grounds as the stand-off between BSF and BDR continues," Pyrdiwah Village headman Fernando Tynsong said. He said, the stand-off began after the Bangladeshi nationals entered Pyrdiwah on July 13 and claimed the area as part of Bangladesh and started plantation activity. However, BSF officials this time promptly destroyed the plantation and pushed back the BDR and the Bangladeshi citizens back to their own side of the divide at Panthumai. Following the BSF’s aggressive posture the BDR moved in heavy artillery and deployed men at Panthumai, Hazipur, Dalapar and other villages on its side encircling Pyrdiwah. "We have instructions from our higher-ups not to fire the first bullet, but if BDR makes that mistake we would not hesitate to empty our magazines," a BSF jawan said. Pyrdiwah, 90 km east of Meghalaya's capital Shillong, was the border village that the BDR had occupied for five days in April 2001 after taking hostage 28 BSF troops. The forcible intrusion into Pyrdiwah sparked off a bloody skirmish that left 16 BSF and three BDR soldiers dead. "Many villagers have shifted out their belongings to adjoining villages and the Village Defence Party (VDP) is patrolling along with the BSF for the past few weeks at Pyrdiwah as there is sense of insecurity," Phizo Nongrum, a villager said. The fear of villagers is not unfound. In 2001 the "friendly" Sheikh Hasina regime was in power, but some brash BDR men together with its Army seized Pyrdiwah, which experts say was to jeopardize the Indo-Bangla relationship. This time too the Sheikh Hasina government is in power and many feel anti-India elements within the Bangladesh Army and BDR would try to engage in another misadventure just to embarrass the two friendly governments. "It is all politics, but we have to be careful and so many of the villagers have shifted their belongings to neighboring areas," Nongrum added. Former Meghalaya Minister Donkupar Massar, who is also the local MLA of Pyrdiwah said, "Villagers are fleeing and I want the state and central government to take concrete action in this regard to safeguard their security." Today, Massar visited the panic-stricken village and took stock of the situation. Sources said that Pyrdiwah which is "adversely possessed" by India should be returned to Bangladesh. "BDR says only 360 acres belong to India in areas surrounding Pyrdiwah, but now India has authority over 1500 acres and BDR wants to reclaim back the Territory," a source said. Interestingly, the tense situation started after Thursday's flag meeting between BSF and BDR at Pyrdiwah, which deliberated on the BDR's recent incursion into Nongkhen village, an ''adverse possession'' of India. In the meeting, both the frontier guards decided that they would maintain status quo with regard to the ''areas under adverse possession.'' At present there is 551.8 acres of Bangladesh land under adverse possession of India, while 226.81 acres of India's land is under adverse possession of Bangladesh. The areas under adverse possession were created when East Pakistan and India demarcated the international boundary in the mid-1960s. There are 11 such areas in the Meghalaya sector.

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