| A border guard: On alert
Moragati (North Dinajpur), Feb. 27: The fluttering red flag and deserted villages are a pointer to how things have been in this border area, shuddered out of lull by blazing guns and a failed bid at truce.
The Border Security Force (BSF) is on alert and ready for 'any eventuality', just like their counterparts on the other side of the Nagar river.
Bullet-ridden walls and roofs bear testimony to the exchange between the border forces, allegedly started by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) after the BSF objected to the construction of a stone embankment along the river.
BSF sources said the construction was being carried out despite an embargo on such work within 150 m of the border. The BDR apparently resumed construction late on Friday evening after halting it following early Indian objections.
'When we objected to the violation of the agreement between the two countries, they opened fire,' said Rakesh Chauhan, the commandant of the BSF's 32 Battalion here, some 20 km from Islampur.
The BSF source said the BDR fired over 100 rounds, while the BSF replied with around 50 shots. There were no casualties on either side.
Yesterday morning, the two commandants met on the Indian side. 'The talks fell through as the BDR refused to see reason. Their commandant, Mustafizur Rehman, returned unconvinced,' a senior BSF officer said. 'We are on alert as BDR personnel have taken up positions on their side. We are ready for any eventuality.'
The men of two small settlements on the Indian side, Pakhargaj and Singatgaj, have moved the women and children to safety. Upset over the turn of events, they blamed the BSF for not warning them about tension along the border.
'We suddenly heard the sound of gun fire and a flurry of bullets struck our tin roofs and walls. It was very scary. We moved out our women and children last morning,' said Hafizul of Pakhargaj.
The problem is not confined to the tension between the guards. With a vast stretch of farm land located beyond the barbed-wire fence, many villagers are not being able to tend to their crops. Work has also stopped in tea gardens that fall on the other side of the fence.
'We cannot tend to our standing crops of mustard and chillies as the BSF is not opening the gates,' said Uday Kanti Burman of Singatgaj.
A villager said the Bangladesh side is severely affected by the erosion of the Nagar, which has washed away the concrete pillars demarcating the international border.
Pratap Singh Chandel, the BSF deputy inspector-general, Kishanganj range, said: 'The commandant-level talks have failed. We are now looking at a DIG-level parley.'