Tuesday, February 4, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Bangladesh pushes back migrants
Envoy summoned as tension mounts on border


* Take back migrants, India tells Bangladesh
* Group of 213 snake charmers includes 80 children, 65 women
* BDR says they are not Bangladeshis
* BSF guards caught them crossing border illegally on Wednesday
* Red Cross helps with material, medical aid
* BDR reinforcements arrive

Kolkata, February 3
As talks failed to determine their nationalities, 213 migrants stranded in no man’s land tried to flee into Bangladesh today, only to be pushed back towards India.

For five days, the hapless group has stayed put near border pillar number 867/8, some 650-km north of here, sandwiched between gun-toting border guards of the two countries.

After the flag meeting failed, the group tried to force its way into Bangladesh but was repelled to its old position by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel.

New Delhi says the group comprises Bangladeshi snake charmers who were stopped by Indian guards while trying to sneak in through a porous border in West Bengal on Wednesday night.

“The fifth flag meeting has failed to break the deadlock, with the BDR refusing to acknowledge that the migrants are Bangladeshis despite documentary evidence,” Mr Chandan Sinha, Magistrate of the northern West Bengal district of Cooch Behar, told reporters.

The BDR also refused to allow Bangladeshi journalists to speak to the migrants, which the BSF claimed was proof that the BDR was trying to “hide the truth”.

The migrants, including 80 children and 65 women, almost went without food and water under the open winter sky after they were caught crossing the border illegally.

NEW DELHI: Bangladesh High Commissioner Tufail Karim Haider was summoned to the Foreign Office this morning by Meera Shankar, Additional Secretary, and an Aide Memoire was handed over to him.

It was conveyed to Haider that the agreed modalities for accepting people back when they are detained while crossing the border should be implemented.

The Bangladeshi envoy was told that these persons were Bangladesh nationals carrying documents of proof of residence like electricity bills and that this was a “humanitarian issue”, External Affairs Ministry spokesman told reporters.

JAMALDA: Fresh units of the Bangladesh Rifles ( BDR ) have arrived here to deal with the tense border situation even as the BDR is getting reports that the Indian BSF has also started reinforcing itself.

The crux of the problem are the 213 Bangladeshi nationals who are understood to have crossed into India in the area of Satgachi, district Cooch Behar.

But, on the ground the tension is palpable as some people who claim to be related to the 213 stranded on the Indian side are urging the BDR to take them back. This village is a few miles into Bangladeshi territory across from Satgachi and while cross movement, marriage and settlement is a way of life, the BDR is determined not to take them back. IANS, PTI, ANI

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