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Bloc first off the block in border politics

Feb. 28: Forward Bloc leader Kamal Guha today said his party would make “atrocities” committed by the Border Security Force an issue in the panchayat polls slated for May.

Guha’s statement comes a day after the BSF and the Bangladesh Rifles traded fire at Mahedipur in Malda for nearly eight hours in one of the worst flare-ups in recent times.

The Bloc leader, who also handles the agriculture portfolio, said his party would highlight the problems faced by the people living in the vicinity of the Zero Line along the border in the run-up to the rural elections.

Maintaining that the Bloc had the support of the Left Front partners, Guha said: “We submitted a memorandum on behalf of the front to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani a few days ago. He assured us that a team of officials would visit the border areas soon to assess the situation.”

“The common man living close to the border is not treated like an Indian citizen. They cannot go to shops and markets freely to buy essential commodities or to their fields. We have repeatedly asked the Centre to intervene but there has been no adequate response,” he said.

Guha lashed out at the Opposition, saying the Trinamul Congress, the BJP and the Congress have failed to launch a movement in the interest of the villagers living near the border. “We will have to take up the cause of these villagers as they really suffer. The government has been very sympathetic to the problem and we, as a front constituent, are happy at the role played by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in finding a solution to the problem,” he said.

Yesterday’s firing broke out after smugglers tried to push in a herd of camels into Bangladesh.

Two camels were wounded in the skirmish, but no human casualties were reported.

BSF deputy inspector-general Ramesh Chanda, who has been camping in Mahedipur, said the situation is “returning to normal”. Chanda squarely blamed the BDR, saying it was not showing “restraint”. “They are aiding the cattle smugglers and pushing in people,” he added.

The firing comes at a time when relations between the neighbours have strained, with New Delhi and Dhaka accusing each other of trying to push in illegal migrants.

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