Today's Paper

Bangla immigrants go back

NEW DELHI Feb. 6. The six-day-long standoff between the Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles ended early this morning with 213 "Bangladeshi citizens'' returning to their country. The crossing over in the Cooch-Behar sector of the border came hours after the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, spoke to his Bangladeshi counterpart, Morshed Khan, over the phone.

The conversation took place after the Bangladesh High Commissioner, Tufail K. Haider, called on Mr. Sinha on Wednesday, the Foreign Office spokesman said this evening. Mr. Sinha also renewed the invitation to Mr. Khan to visit India, which was extended in August 2002. Dates for the visit are being worked out through diplomatic channels. Asked about the Bangladesh Rifles' contention that the 213 persons had not entered Bangladesh, the spokesman said not a single person had entered India.

Group `vanishes' into fog

Haroon Habib reports from Dhaka:

The Bangladesh Foreign Secretary, Shamsher M. Chowdhury, said Dhaka had "no evidence or information'' about the 213 persons who were stranded in the "no-man's land" along the Bangladesh-West Bengal border for the last seven days. However, the "vanishing'' of the group of Bengali-speaking people, mostly snake-charmers, into the dense midnight fog, helped defuse the potentially explosive crisis that forced the border guards of the two countries to confront each other.

The 213 persons awaited their fate as New Delhi and Dhaka argued over which country they came from. While India maintained that the group "slipped across with the help of villagers and the BDR,'' Bangladesh alleged that the BSF was indulging in "repeated push-in attempts'' of "Bengali-speaking Indians'' into Bangladesh.

Answering questions at the news conference, Mr. Chowdhury said his Government had "no evidence or information'' that some persons had entered Bangladesh. However, the BDR and the BSF would hold a high-level meeting tomorrow to settle the issue, he said.

Indian officials were quoted by the media as saying that they last spotted the group before midnight when it was extremely foggy. At dawn, the group was gone from its makeshift campsite at the border. Reports in the Bangladeshi media said that some 25 Bengali-speaking persons from the Kamargach BSF camp were forced into Bangladesh at midnight through the Sonapatila border of Atowari upazila. But the BDR personnel and villagers pushed them back. Quoting villagers, the reports said the BSF tried to push in more than 1,000 Indian Muslims through Mistripara of Sadar upazila, Baroshashi of Boda upazila and Dangapara of Domar upazila.

Recommended for you