The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uneasy calm after night of fire

Kuchlibari (Mekhliganj), April 13: The sector commanders of the BSF and the BDR may have had cordial talks for nearly two hours at the Teen Bigha Corridor here this afternoon, but the over 2,000 Indians in the five border villages in the region will need a lot more convincing.

Throughout the day today, the villagers, especially from the focal village of Kalsipara (see map), around which most of last evening's action took place, streamed out through the gate in the border fencing to the interior and safer parts of Kuchlibari. Here, four camps have been set up to shelter the 'refugees'.

Assurances from BSF officials, the Kuchlibari police and the Mekhliganj MLA and sabhapati were not enough to make them go back to their homes. After all, the firing that took place on March 28 have killed and injured people.

'We are afraid. We fear for our lives, we cannot risk it anymore,' said 35-year-old Mohammad Anarul Haq, while carrying a bulky sack on his head. He is among the 150 and odd families of Kalsipara who are walking 3 km to the camps in Kuchlibari.

In spite of being told that the BSF was there to protect them and that both sides had agreed to refrain from further firing, Haq, like fellow villager Oliyar Rehman, prefers to 'wait and see' what the situation is over the next few days.

'This is not a good signal,' says Mekhliganj sabhapati Lakhirani Ray of the Forward Bloc. 'Such a situation has not occurred here for many years. The administration should do something.'

According to Sudesh Singh Chauhan, the commander of the under construction border outpost at Kalsipara, over 1,000 rounds were fired, in addition to mortars, by the BSF jawans in retaliation to the firing by BDR personnel. 'The firing began at 4.55 pm yesterday,' he said, while supervising the building of the outpost. 'It ended around 12.15 am today. We have reports that three BDR men were killed.'

On March 28, two Indian villagers were killed when the BDR opened fire to stop the construction of a road in Kalsipara, which is a four-sq km enclave surrounded on three sides by Bangladesh. There is no fencing to demarcate the two sides, only flagstones that serve as markers.

'Had the fence on the Indian side been constructed through zero point, all this trouble would not have happened,' said Paresh Adhikary, the local MLA. He added that according to reports received by him, the firing yesterday was a pre-determined exercise by the BDR. 'They had evacuated the villages on their side before the incident took place.'

Following the March 28 incident, the BSF had decided to build a BOP at Kalsipara as tension continued in the village. 'The firing was a bid to counter the move by the BDR,' said BSF's IG, Northern Frontier, S.R Tiwari.

Today's flag meeting was headed by BSF's DIG (Siliguri), Risal Singh, and BDR's Rangpur sector commander, Col Lutfar Rehman.

'The BOP will be built,' Singh said in front of Rehman. 'We had a good meeting and will take measures so that such problems do not recur. For starters, all company and sector commanders from both sides have exchanged mobile numbers so 'we are in touch as soon as any trouble erupts'.

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