Shillong, Sept. 18: Assam is planning a double layer of defence in its riverine areas to thwart influx from across the international border.
“The Assam government is raising a riverine battalion to patrol the riverine areas behind the BSF. It is very serious and is in the process of finalisation of the battalion,” BSF inspector-general (Meghalaya frontier) Sudesh Kumar said today.
Kumar was responding to a query on the steps being initiated to man the border more effectively in the light of the recent violence in some districts of Assam where it was alleged that the bloodshed was an offshoot of largescale and unchecked illegal migration. “We are very cautious of that particular fact. We are trying to plug the loopholes wherever possible,” he said.
He said there are no fixed border outposts in the riverine areas like Dhubri where boats keep coming and going. “It is difficult for the BSF to man and patrol such areas. We hope things will become better when the Assam government raises the riverine battalion. The men of this battalion will be behind the BSF. If somebody crosses, they will intercept. A double layer will be there,” he added.
On the reported arms smuggling across the border, Kumar said, “As far as our knowledge goes, arms smuggling from Bangladesh toIndia does not take place through our (Meghalaya) border.” He said intelligence reports indicate that for the past year smugglers have been using the Myanmar-Mizoram-Dimapur route.
He said a high-level meeting of the BSF and Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) would be held in Dhaka next week. The BSF would raise issues like the presence of some insurgent groups in the neighbouring country.
Regarding Meghalaya sector of the border, issues like infiltration of Bangladeshis who steal forest produce and boulders, fake currency and presence of HNLC and GNLA camps across the border are likely to be raised, he added.
The BSF is also likely to press for more confidence-building measures along the border through regular meetings between the officers from both sides manning the border.
Kumar said Bangladesh has expressed concern over smuggling of Phensedyl and brown sugar, and the killing of Bangladeshi nationals.
To ensure effective border management, the BSF IG said he has requested for the sanctioning of an additional battalion to plug the gaps between two border outposts like the stretch between Shella and Maheshkhola.
The BSF, Kumar said, has also involved local residents to help manage the border.
We are involving the public in border management, as they are the permanent residents of the borders. We have also changed our border patrolling according to their views. We are receiving a lot more feedback from the border population. We want to make the people stakeholders in border management,” he added.