The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengali barrier in border rows

Behrampore, March 15: The Union home ministry’s joint secretary today met MLAs, MPs, district police personnel and civil administration officials after persistent complaints by politicians here that the Border Security Force was harassing villagers along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Senior BSF officers were also present at the meeting with joint secretary A. Jain at the circuit house here.

“The BSF jawans often harass locals without any reason,” Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury said after the meeting. “When farmers go out to the mud flats on the river to tend to their crops, they are often beaten ruthlessly by the border guards. I demanded at the meeting that this should stop once and for all.”

Most of the politicians present said the problem arose as many jawans were unable to speak or understand the local dialect, sparking misunderstandings. “We have demanded that more Bengali-speaking jawans be deployed along the India-Bangladesh border,” Chowdhury said. Most of the problems would be solved once the language barrier was overcome, party leaders said.

District superintendent of police Virendra agreed that the communication gap sparked trouble. “Even though the politicians pointed out these situations, they (also) praised the BSF and the police for their role in border areas,” he said.

Among others present at the meeting was Criminal Investigation Department additional director-general S.I.S. Ahmed, who is slated to take over as BSF director-general.

The police and the BSF officers present at the meeting refused to divulge the details of the discussion. A senior district official, who refused to be named, said most of the talks centred around infiltration and ways to seal the border.

“The two battalion commandants at Murshidabad briefed Jain on the prevailing situation along the border. The joint secretary also asked the politicians to cooperate with the BSF while dealing with matters that turned sensitive,” the official said.

Jain reportedly urged the politicians to convince villagers that the BSF’s duty was to protect them, so the jawans should be treated like “friends”.

“The joint secretary assured the politicians present at the meeting that BSF men who were found guilty of harassment and physical violence would be firmly dealt with,” the official said.

In Murshidabad, the border stretches for 115 km from Jalangi to Farakka. During partition, the entire border was the Ganga and Padma rivers, the district official said.

“Since then, the rapid change in the course of the rivers -- in places the Padma has moved towards the Indian side -– has created areas where the border falls on land,” the official said.

In certain other stretches, the mud flats left behind by the receding river have become a bone of contention with villagers on both sides of the border, the official said. The issue came up at today’s meeting.

Later, Jain visited the Char Labhgola area of the border in the Bhagabangola police station limits.

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