The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BDR pledges troops pullout at flag meet

Feb. 7: Bangladesh Rifles today agreed to withdraw the additional forces it deployed along the Cooch Behar border, even as the two neighbours carried out a joint border survey in Malda to settle disputes, if any, amicably.

At a high-level flag meeting between the two border forces at Cooch Behar’s Changrabanda, BDR deputy director-general Brigadier-General Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil assured BSF’s inspector-general (North Frontier) K.C. Sharma that he would pull out the additional forces right away as a first step towards defusing tension between the two neighbours, BSF sources said.

The meeting was called to resolve disputes and reduce tension between the two forces across the table in the wake of the six-day standoff over the deportation of 213 Bangladeshi snake-charmers at Satgachhi. The standoff ended yesterday when Dhaka allowed the stranded people back into the country under intense pressure from Delhi.

During the two-hour parleys, the BSF protested against the BDR’s move to dig trenches along the border and also at the “provocative” remarks the Bangladeshi guards made over loudspeakers from across the border during the deadlock.

Sources said though the BDR brass initially denied having dug the trenches, they admitted it in the course of the meeting. The BDR promised to “fill” the trenches soon.

“We made our displeasure known to the brigadier-general for the BDR’s refusal to accept our earlier requests for a meeting to resolve the tension,” Sharma told The Telegraph. He said the BDR had repeatedly urged the residents of Uttarpara and Dakshinpara, both in Bangladesh, to take up arms and come to the border to help it stop the stranded people from entering Bangladesh.

Sources said the BDR officials attending the meeting, on the other hand, accused the BSF of pushing the Bengali-speaking Indian Muslims into Bangladesh. “They made a strong protest in this regard,” they said.

Both forces agreed to hold frequent flag meets at the deputy inspectors-general level to sort out disputes.

Members of the joint survey team visited Mehdipur and Habibpur in Malda district, mapping the border and speaking to villagers for the past two days.

“The representatives will go into the disputes and report to their respective governments,” Malda additional district magistrate Rajesh Sinha said. Deputy director of the state land and land revenue department Dipankar Chowdhury led the Indian side. The Bangladeshi team was led by the director-general of its land record department. The last joint border survey in the district was conducted two years ago.

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