Hili (South Dinajpur), Feb. 21: His patience running thin after three days of hunger and humiliation, Mohammad Kamal picked up his one-year-old son and threatened to throttle him in front of a team of officials and journalists from Bangladesh.
That, Kamal explained, his voice quivering in anger, was the only way the Bangladeshi border guards would be convinced that he and his family members were citizens of that country.
“It is better to die than to be tortured like this. Please let us return to our motherland,” Kamal told the officials, his eyes welling up.
Kamal, his wife, three children and a friend are stranded on Zero Line across the Hili border with the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) refusing to let them in, arguing that they are Indians.
The Border Security Force has said it cannot allow them to enter India as they are Bangladeshis. The group, which was returning from Ajmer Sharif when they were stopped on Wednesday night, has taken shelter close to pillar number 284/50-S.
Support for the stranded six came from members of the Bangladesh Mukti Joddha Sangram Samity. Armed with a copy of the voters’ list, the activists reasoned with the BDR jawans to take them back.
But their appeals — and Kamal’s desperate measures — fell on deaf ears as the BDR personnel refused to open the gates.
The Bangladeshi administration has so far not provided either food or water to those stranded. They are surviving on rice, bread, milk and sweets offered by villagers on the Indian side.
A flag meeting between the BSF and the BDR yesterday on the latest standoff between the neighbours fell through. Since then, there has been no communication between the two forces.
This morning, a team of officials from the Bangladeshi Dinajpur administration paid a visit to the area along with a group of journalists.
“They were told all that they wanted to know about us. We told them that we hail from Khulna district. We had crossed over to India through the Benapole border to visit Ajmer Sharif six months ago. We were returning to our homeland through this border but the BDR drove us out. The BSF also won’t allow us to take shelter inside India,” said a sobbing Sajeda Bibi, Kamal’s wife.
Saidul Islam, the other man stranded with the family who says he is from Rangpur district, has his name on the voters’ list for Gondoria parliamentary constituency. He told the Bangladeshi officials they were welcome to visit his native village and inform his parents.
District magistrate Sushil K. Pal visited the BSF’s Hili camp and held discussions with company commandant Vishal Joshi.
Ten Bangladeshi infiltrators were arrested in the Bharatpur police station area of Murshidabad last night.
Police sources said they were held while going to take shelter in a house at Pallishree village. District superintendent of police Virendra said the Bangladeshis were spotted by villagers, who called the police. They had crossed the border from Pabna.