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Push-in replay at Hili

Balurghat, Feb. 20: Six Bangladeshi nationals, including a family of five returning from a visit to Ajmer Sharif, are stranded on no-man’s land across the Hili border after the Bangladesh Rifles refused to let them enter saying they were Indians.

A couple, their three children and another man were pushed in by the BDR last evening, South Dinajpur additional district magistrate Gautam Ghosh said.

A flag meeting between Border Security Force commander D.R. Rathore and Bangladesh Rifles’ Major Qurban Ali at 11 this morning failed to decide the fate of the stranded six.

Muhammad Kamal, 27, his wife Sajida Bibi, 23, and their children, residents of Manglapur village under Bagirahat police station of Khulna district in Bangladesh, and Muhammad Sahidul Alam, 30, of Salaipur village in Rangpur, have taken shelter near border pillar No. 284/50-s, BSF and intelligence sources said. A local voluntary organisation provided food and polythene sheets to the stranded Bangladeshis.

The BSF spotted the six Bangladeshis and stopped them from moving beyond their current position. The BSF’s south Bengal frontier is sending reinforcements to Hili to mount vigil on the unfenced border.

Last week, a group of 14 Bangladeshis had been denied entry into the country at the same point. They were, however, taken back by the BDR under the cover of darkness.

The latest standoff has raised the spectre of a rerun of the Satgachhi crisis that erupted on the Cooch Behar border earlier this month. The deadlock was broken on February 6 when Dhaka, buckling under intense pressure from Delhi, allowed the group of 213 Bangladeshi snake-charmers to enter the country.

Rathore, commandant of the Patiram camp of the BSF, said the group of six Bangladeshi nationals had crossed over to the Indian side six months ago to visit Ajmer Sharif. When they tried to return to their native village in Bangladesh last evening, they were caught by the BDR jawans and pushed back to the Indian side.

“Our men, who were on patrol, prevented them from entering India. All of them confessed to the BDR officials that they were Bangladeshi nationals. But the BDR is in no mood to accept their version. We have also taken a stern stand. We shall keep strict vigil on these immigrants till they are taken back by the BDR personnel,” Rathore said.

Qurban Ali, however, said the stranded six were Indians and he could not allow them to enter Bangladesh.

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