Bethberia (Nadia), Jan. 1: Border Security Force jawans gunned down two brothers this morning after a third man snatched one of their assault rifles on being confronted for allegedly trying to smuggle cattle into Bangladesh from this village in the Chapra police station area.
The BSF claimed that the men were cattle smugglers and had assaulted two jawans and snatched a rifle from them. But tense villagers here said the men were farmers and had taken away the rifle in self-defence.
“There were at least five men who were challenged by the two jawans when they were trying to create an opening in an already damaged portion of the border fencing about three km from the village at 11 am. They set upon the jawans and hit them with sharp implements. When one of them took the assault rifle of a jawan, the other jawan had no alternative but to fire at the fleeing men, killing two of them,” said A.K. Ghosh, the deputy inspector-general of the BSF in Nadia district.
The men were trying to smuggle two buffaloes into Bangladesh’s Meherpur district, he added. The man who ran away with the rifle is yet to be traced.
The BSF has launched a massive combing operation, which has scared most young men in the village into hiding.
The two brothers, Azamat Mondol, 32, and Nizmat, 30, were felled on a field near a road that leads to Tehatta, close to the village.
A witness to the incident, Jaffar Ali Sheikh, said the men were sowing onion seeds in a plot close to the border, when the brothers noticed that their buffaloes had strayed near the border. They had gone to fetch them.
“The rifle was snatched when the BSF jawans began hitting the men with their guns. One of them panicked and ran away with the rifle,” Jaffar said, adding that he did not know him. The third man, it is believed, is not a relative of the two victims.
Most of the villagers accused the border troops of regularly harassing them when they worked in fields close to the border. The slain brothers were at least 200 metres from the border when they were challenged, Jaffar claimed.
The three other brothers of the slain siblings had fled the village, said their uncle, Jaffar Mondol. “My two dead nephews had an infant each, and now we will have to fend for them and their widows,” he said.
The brothers’ father, Samsad Mondol was away in Calcutta to apply for Haj.
Jaffar Mondol said over a thousand youths had fled the village, like his other nephews, fearing a BSF reprisal.
The village is teeming with border and police personnel, who have detained over 40 men in a small room and are questioning them one by one. The deputy superintendent of police is helping the BSF in the combing operation.
The BSF has assured the villagers that they will not be harassed.
“We have requested them not to create any enmity with us as we protect them from cross-border gangs,” an officer said. At the same time, he hinted that a strong force would be in place here till the assault rifle was recovered.