| Soldiers take position in Malda near the border. Picture by Surojit Roy
Malda, Aug. 20: Indian and Bangladeshi border guards traded fire this morning as fresh tension flared over disputed construction work along the frontier, leaving two children injured ' one with a bullet in his lungs.
Fourteen-year-old Amal Mandal was shifted to Calcutta as his condition deteriorated.
Anima Chowdhury, 12, the other injured, was declared out of danger after being treated at a mobile medical unit of the Border Security Force.
The firefight between the border forces began yesterday over the Bangladesh irrigation department’s refusal to stop anti-erosion work on the banks of the Mahananda at zero point.
The gunbattle ceased late in the evening only to flare again this morning. BSF officials said nearly 1,000 rounds were exchanged today near the Muchia, Adampur and Krishnagar outposts before the firing stopped around noon.
In Delhi, a top BSF source said: “We have proposed a flag meeting with Bangladesh Rifles at the level of the deputy inspector-general tomorrow. The last flag meeting was about three-four days back at the commandant (junior) level.”
Malda superintendent of police Dilip Mondal, however, said the meeting will be at the commandant level.
BSF additional director-general Damodar Sarangi said his men stopped firing on the assumption that a flag march will be held tomorrow to settle the matter.
“However, our jawans may resort to firing if attempts are made to restart the anti-erosion work at the zero point violating the norms.”
“We are expecting a solution at tomorrow’s peace meeting,” said BSF deputy inspector-general, Malda range, Om Prakash Gaur.
Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is in neighbouring Murshidabad now, has been informed of the developments. Late this evening, the additional district magistrate of Malda, Bhavani Prasad Barat, said the chiefs of the two border forces would meet in Delhi on August 27.
The BSF source in Delhi said they had made it clear to the BDR that the embankment work on the Indian side was being done 150 yards from zero point. But the work will go on, the source asserted. “We have forces in sufficient number at the spot and we will complete the work.”
Panic gripped residents of the villages near the Adampur outpost when the two children were hit. While Anima was hit in the back, a bullet pierced Amal’s lung.
“We have referred him to a Calcutta hospital as his condition is fast deteriorating,” said Pradip Chakraborty, who treated him at Malda Sadar Hospital.
“Many of us had to flee our homes,” said Sulekha Bibi of Bhespara, a village near Adampur.