Cooch Behar, March 26: Border villagers here shrugged off the stigma of “them” and “us” as they raced last evening to save a Bangladesh village from being gutted by a blaze.
The residents of Barthar village and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel saw flames licking the straw roof of a hut at Dulali village across the border, about 40 km from here.
“The village where the fire broke out is very close to the no-man’s land on the Bangladesh side. Our men spotted the smoke around 4 pm, approximately 150 metres from the barbed-wire fence where the border outpost is located,” said the deputy inspector-general of the BSF’s Cooch Behar sector, Vimal Mohan.
Protocol demanded that the jawans stay put on the Indian side and none of the paramilitary personnel rushed to the rescue of the villagers. The officer said: “With the conditions bone dry, the jawans feared that the flames would spread very quickly. So they decided to turn to the residents of Barthar, who had assembled on seeing the fire beginning to leap from one roof to another.”
Sensing that Dulali was on the brink of a disaster, the BSF personnel rallied around more than a hundred villagers, equipped them with buckets and shovels and hurried them to the fence in a truck. The gate between the two countries was then opened so that people from India could fight a fire in Bangladesh.
Rescuers trooped in from the adjacent villages of Kayeterbari and Chamta.
“There are over 150 families at Dulali and if the BSF did not act as quickly as they did, the fire would have spread and gutted all the houses,” said Azhar Mian, one of those who had rushed to the rescue.
After the hour-long operation, Dulali escaped all but unscathed. Six huts were reduced to ashes.
The BSF had no other recourse but to allow the villagers to cross over and help in the firefighting as Dulali is some distance from the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border camp at Loharkuchi. Even before word had been sent to Loharkuchi, the flames had been put out.
“After the fire was doused and the tension had abated, the people of Dulali profusely thanked us and the jawans who were keeping a watch from across the border,” said Abdul Mannan of Chamta.
The Dulali residents told Mannan that the fire spread from a shed where a man had lighted a lamp to warm compresses to treat an ailing cow. A spark kindled the hay stacked inside the shed. The fire spread instantly as the hay was dry. The flames leapt fast and furious with the panic-stricken villagers watching rooted to the ground.
“If Sourav Ganguly’s men can win hearts across the border, so can we,” said a BSF jawan.