The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prisoners off Dhaka radar in standoff times

Behrampore, March 6: The diplomatic tug-of-war between Delhi and Dhaka over illegal immigrants in the past month has had an adverse effect on the future of 104 Bangladeshi prisoners who have been in the central jail here for several months beyond their terms.

The names of these prisoners, their backgrounds and addresses were sent to the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) through the Border Security Force (BSF) more than two months ago but Dhaka has remained silent on them.

Most of the 104 prisoners completed their jail terms more than two months ago. Senior jail officials said most of them had been booked and convicted under the Foreigners’ Act and their prison terms were not more than a period of four months.

“If we could have handed them over to the Bangladeshi authorities, or even pushed them back, the jail would not have had to bear the burden of feeding and keeping 104 people,” an official said.

“We had sent a list of the 104 prisoners to the BDR but no clearance has arrived from across the border,” said Murshidabad superintendent of police Virendra.

The district police chief said Dhaka usually takes a couple of weeks to clear the entry of its nationals who had served jail terms here, but this time it has been months.

“The last batch of such men was handed over to the BDR on December 23. Since January, the process has come to a virtual standstill, despite the fact that the list we sent to Dhaka as well as the Union home ministry had photographs of all the prisoners and their particulars,” said Virendra.

Police sources said 256 men, who had finished their prison terms in the central jail here, had been sent back to Bangladesh last year.

“The BDR had sent in Dhaka’s clearance within a month of our sending them the list,” the sources said.

The Union home ministry has embarked on a survey of the Bangladeshi prisoners lodged in jails in India to identify how many of them had served their prison terms and were eligible to be set free.

“Most of those who still languish in the jail here are residents of the bordering districts of Rajsahi, Godagari and Kusthia. Some of them are also from the interiors of Bangladesh, from places like Pabna and Faridpur,” said a district official.

Besides the 104 overstaying in the jail now, there are more than 100 Bangladeshis who are either facing trial or serving their sentences.

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