The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BSF backs Bloc truce formula

Cooch Behar, March 11: The Border Security Force has largely agreed to a Forward Bloc plan to reduce the force’s conflicts with the residents in the border areas of north Bengal.

At a meeting with the Cooch Behar district administration today, attended by agriculture minister Kamal Guha and five other Bloc MLAs from the district, BSF director-general Ajai Raj Sharma acknowledged the mounting tension between the border guards and the villagers. He said the force would do all it could to reduce the tension.

As a “first” step, Sharma said the BSF would print and distribute leaflets among the border residents spelling out the powers enjoyed by the force.

“Border residents will be provided identity-cards. We will also take steps to improve relations between the local residents and jawans and make our force people-friendly,” the BSF chief told reporters at the Cooch Behar circuit house.

Sharma said he has received inputs on the increased ISI activities along the border with Bangladesh in the state. “We will be alert to the threat,” he added.

Besides the BSF chief and the Forward Bloc leaders, the meeting was attended by Cooch Behar district magistrate Chandan Sinha, superintendent of police Praveen Kumar, joint secretary (police) in the Union home ministry A.K. Jain and joint secretary (border management) in the ministry K.S. Ramsovan.

For a little less than an hour, Guha told the visiting team of the “atrocities” committed by the BSF jawans on the border people. “We placed six demands before the BSF chief. First, it has to publish leaflets detailing the powers enjoyed by the force and distribute them among the residents. Second, atrocities have to be stopped. Third, the jawans should not stop farmers who have their lands on the other side of the fencing from crossing over. Fourth, the fencing gates will have to be opened for students from 10 am. Fifth, the gates will have to be opened regularly to ensure passage to the farmers. Finally, the jawans should be more people-friendly,” Guha told reporters after the meeting, held at the office of the district magistrate.

Guha said if the BSF improved its relations with the people in the border areas, the chief minister would no longer have to request Delhi for more troops.

“The Forward Bloc will help the BSF like we did during the 1971 war with Pakistan. Then, we had provided all help to the army and we are ready to extend similar cooperation to the BSF,” the senior minister said.

The Bloc leader said he was happy with the assurances given by the BSF director-general. “We are satisfied with the discussions. But let us see what happens in reality,” Guha added.

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