The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Villagers cry foul after shootout on Padma

Jalangi (Murshidabad), Aug. 18: Border Security Force jawans shot dead two cattle smugglers after a gang attacked their patrol boat and tried to ram the craft, mid-stream on the Padma river.

But residents here, about 250 km from Calcutta, claimed the BSF opened fire on a boat that had ferried Indians and there were no cattle on it.

“Around 9 last night, three jawans of the 26 Battalion were patrolling the Padma on a mechanised country boat when they spotted a Bangladeshi craft with cows moving across the river border,” said R.K. Hajela, the battalion commandant.

The jawans ordered the boat to stop but the men on board did not pay heed and continued on their way. “When they gave chase, the smugglers’ boat was joined by three others, which came rushing at the patrol and tried to ram and sink them,” the commandant said.

The jawans opened fire. The swelling Padma was witness to a bloody spectacle of blazing guns in the next few minutes. The jawans fired 32 rounds.

Some of the gangsters jumped off their boats and swam to safety. Two were found dead on one of the boats, which lay floating on the river enveloped in the post-shootout silence.

“Two cows were seized along with the boat in which they were being ferried,” said Hajela. The dead were later identified as Billal Mondol, 45, and Saidul Malithya, 15, both residents of Daulatpur in Bangladesh’s Kusthia district.

“We are rewarding head constable Suresh Chandra and constables Surendra Pratap and S.K. Rajen for daring to take on the smugglers. Billal was a notorious Bangladeshi criminal. The bodies have been handed over to Jalangi police,” the commandant said.

Residents challenged the BSF’s version of the incident. They claimed that Billal’s boat had crossed over to the Indian side with Indian nationals on board and when they were returning the patrol fired needlessly. “When the BSF seized the boat, there were no cattle on board. They made up the entire case to suit their purpose,” said a villager who claimed to have seen the incidents from the shore.

Other villagers said another man was also shot but he fell from the boat and probably drowned.

Hajela refuted what the residents had to say.

Murshidabad superintendent of police Gyanwanth Singh said he has asked the Jalangi police to investigate and send a report as soon as possible.

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