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Border troubles remain as India, B’desh reach out
Published on 3 Mar. 2010 12:04 AM IST
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: All is not quiet on the India-Bangladesh border even as the two countries strive to improve relations. While border guards from the neighbouring country have reportedly been resorting to unprovoked firing in Meghalaya, there is tension in Tripura following ethnic violence in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). India’s Border Security Force (BSF) says that Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel have intermittently indulged in unprovoked firing across southwestern Meghalaya since Feb 4. “We have strengthened all our border outposts and put BSF troopers on maximum alert. If the BDR indulges in misadventure, we will give them a befitting reply,” says BSF’s Assam-Meghalaya Frontier Inspector General Prithviraj Singh. “Since Feb 4, BDR troopers have resorted to intermittent, unprovoked firing at Muktapur in Jaintia Hills district in southwestern Meghalaya. Whenever Indian villagers have gone to the border areas for fishing or farming, the BDR jawans have started firing.” Several schools along the India-Bangladesh border have been closed and around 500 people fled their villages in Meghalaya due to firing by Bangladesh border guards. Several inconclusive meetings between senior officials of the BSF and BDR have been held in the past few days. There are some disputed areas along the border. The Indian states that share the 4,095-km-long border with Bangladesh include Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and West Bengal. Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang, who visited Dhaka last week, has urged Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed to take steps to resolve border problems. “Lapang met Sheikh Hasina last Thursday in Dhaka and apprised her of the situation along Meghalaya’s India-Bangladesh border arising due to BDR’s unprovoked firing,” an official said in Shillong. Lapang, along with several ministers from Assam, Tripura and Mizoram, went to Dhaka last week to participate in a trade and investment summit. The three-day business summit also laid stress on improving connectivity in the form of roads, riverine routes and air between Bangladesh and northeastern India to boost trade and business between the two regions. In view of the ethnic violence in southeastern Bangladesh’s CHT since Feb 19, additional BSF troopers have been deployed along the border in Tripura. The CHT region adjoins southern Tripura. “We have asked our jawans to maintain strict vigil along the border to prevent any kind of influx from the CHT, a tribal dominated area,” a BSF official told IANS on condition of anonymity. Bangladeshi newspapers have reported that the authorities have deployed soldiers and clamped a curfew in the trouble-torn Khagrachari district in CHT to restore normalcy. The locals, mostly Chakma tribes and Buddhists, claim that eight people have been killed in these attacks. Though the major trouble has been controlled, the situation has still remained volatile, Bangladeshi newspapers say. Over 60,000 Chakma tribal refugees were given shelter in southern Tripura for more than 11 years after they fled the CHT following ethnic violence across the border in April 1986. Chakma tribals in Tripura and Mizoram have organised protest rallies in the past few days in the two states against the alleged atrocities on tribals in the Bangladesh area. “The issue had already been taken up at international forums, including the United Nations (UN). Unless the culprits are punished and the Bangladesh government prevents ethnic hostilities, we will go for a mass movement in both the countries,” said Chakma leader Bijoy Chakma. A New Delhi-based rights group has sought UN intervention over attacks on tribals in CHT in Bangladesh. Chakma refugees living in India had been repatriated to CHT in 1998 after the Bangladesh government signed a peace agreement in 1997 with separatist outfit Shanti Bahini, which had been demanding autonomy for the tribals in Bangladesh. Occasionally, the tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers have been engaged in skirmishes over land and other basic needs in the mountainous CHT.

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