Thursday, April 19, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

16 Indian troops die in border clashes

Dhaka, April 18
Sixteen Indian troops and one Bangladeshi soldier were killed and several others injured today during clashes in the northern border district of Kurigram, a senior Bangladeshi officer said.

“One of our soldiers was killed and 16 Indian soldiers were killed, while two of their injured have surrendered,” Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border guard chief Maj-Gen Fazlur Rahman said.

“The Indian troopers attacked suddenly and also used mortars... fired indiscriminately, but our troops retaliated,” he said. There was no immediate comment from New Delhi on the claim made by Rahman.

“Two of the injured Indian soldiers who have surrendered were being brought by helicopter to Dhaka,” Rahman said.

He said one of the 16 Indians was killed by angry villagers when he lost his way before “our soldiers could find him”.

The skirmishes in Kurigram’s Hijalmari and Boroiman border posts followed a weekend incident in which Bangladesh seized a frontier outpost from India. India said at least 20 of its troops were taken hostage by the BDR.

The border area between Meghalaya and Bangladesh contains several disputed villages which are claimed by both sides.

General Rahman said some 300 Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel today fired indiscriminately without any reason and then attacked again at mid-day, firing “smoke shells” to distract Bangladeshi troops.

Border troops of both countries fought a gunbattle along Bangladesh’s northern Kurigram frontier today, killing three soldiers, security officials said.

“Indian Border Security Force (BSF) early this morning launched an unprovoked attack on our Boroibari and Hizalmari border posts killing one soldier,” Maj-Gen Rahman claimed.

He said two BSF men were also killed as the BDR “returned fire”.

Indian security forces had said that last weekend Bangladesh Rifles soldiers trespassed into Pyrdiwah village near Dawki, the last Indian border town in the mountainous northeastern state of Meghalaya, forcing over 500 villagers to flee their homes.

Maj-Gen Rahman said, “Our reinforcements reached the area and the firing, which began at 6 a.m. (5.30 a.m. IST), was continuing.”

According to Meghalaya Home Minister T.H. Rangad, as many as 1,000 Bangladeshi troops had crossed the border since the weekend, resulting in several skirmishes.

Rangad said several hundred troops had overrun an outpost of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), in Pyrdiwah village, around 100 km east of Shillong.

At a meeting between officers of the two sides last night, the Indians gave the BDR until today morning to withdraw.

However, Bangladesh’s military today claimed it had simply regained control over territory under Indian occupation since Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, a report said.

“We have just completed a mission to restore our territory and sovereignty,” Ma-Gen Rahman said, according to Dhaka’s Daily Star newspaper.

SHILLONG: However, confusion prevails over reported occupation of a village by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), with Meghalaya Chief Minister E.K. Mawlong on Wednesday asserting that Pyrdiwah village in East Khasi Hills district of the state bordering Bangladesh was under BDR since Monday, but the IG, BSF, V.K. Gaur denying it.

“Bangladesh Rifles is continuing to occupy Pyrdiwah village since Monday,” Mawlong said here.

Mawlong said he had informed Home Minister L.K. Advani about it and he had asked him “to send the details”.

After a meeting with Cabinet members and senior police officials, the Chief Minister said a fax was sent on Tuesday , urging Advani to “take proper steps in this regard”.

Mawlong also said state Home Minister T.H. Rangad was sent to Pyrdiwah village for spot verification.

But Inspector-General Gaur denied that the village was occupied by the BDR.

Gaur, who left for the meeting near Dawki today, said on Tuesday that both sides were preserving the status quo and added the whole skirmish was an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.

Meanwhile, the BSF and BDR on Wednesday held a flag meeting to resolve the crisis. AFP, PTIBack


Protest lodged with Bangladesh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18
In a polite yet strong protest, India today asked Bangladesh to immediately restore “status quo anti” at the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya sector where Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) had captured an Indian village recently.

Bangladesh High Commissioner Mostafa Farooque Mohammad was called to the Ministry of External Affairs to convey India’s serious concern at the “unwarranted” and “unprovoked” action of the BDR.

Dhaka has been asked to direct their local border authorities to avoid use of force in the interest of close and friendly ties between the two countries, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said in response to a question.

Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs in charge of Bangladesh Meera Shankar stressed to the High Commissioner that not only status quo anti should be restored immediately but utmost restraint to defuse tensions should also be exercised.

“The situation on the ground is that particular village is with the Bangladeshi security forces”, the spokesman said. The village in question — Pyrduwah — is one of the territories under “adverse possession” in India’s jurisdiction.

India and Bangladesh have 4000-km-long common border and, barring 6.5 km stretch, most of it has been demarcated, the spokesman said, adding that there were some territories on the Indian side in possession of Bangladesh and vice versa.

When asked if Indian troops had been taken “hostage”, the spokesman said, “I don’t have details now but I will check on this and get back to you. I don’t want to speculate”.

Asked if the Bangladesh High Commissioner was summoned or called to the Ministry of External Affairs, the spokesman said that “he was requested to come.”

“The Government of India has learnt with regret of the unprovoked action of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) at Pryduwah on India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya sector leading to an exchange of fire, the vacation of village and escalation of tension in the region”, the spokesman said.

India’s approach has been to work together with Bangladesh in defusing the situation in a spirit of mutual cooperation to ensure a peaceful atmosphere on the border, he said.

Under an institutional framework to deal with such incidents, two sector commander level meetings were held on April 16 and 18, the spokesman said, adding that both remained inconclusive.

In December last year, the two countries had held Foreign Secretary-level talks during which it was agreed to set up joint working groups to deal with demarcation of the remaining border portion and also to address the issues of territories and enclaves in adverse possession so that it could be resolved systematically and peacefully keeping in mind very close and friendly relations between the two countries, the spokesman said.Back

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