OTHERS

What did you tell Vajpayee, Opposition asks Hasina

DHAKA, APRIL 29. The Bangladeshi Opposition today used the border crisis involving India as a vital political tool to embarrass the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, demanding she make public her recent telephone talk with her Indian counterpart, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee.

``Let the people know what you and Mr. Vajpayee discussed by phone by playing the taped talks,'' the Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary-general, Mr. Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, told hundreds of demonstrators of the four-party alliance at a rally held as part of countrywide demonstrations against a ``weak-kneed'' foreign policy of the Government and against the ``killing of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel by the Border Security Force in the frontier area of Rowmari.''

Mr. Bhuiyan also expressed admiration and respect for the BDR personnel for ``their bravery in protecting the country's frontier'' amidst applause and slogans against the Sheikh Hasina Government. The BNP leader accused the Government of its ``subservience'' and India of showing a ``big brotherly attitude'' which he claimed led to ``painful incidents'' along the border.

Dhaka unruffled

A Government official said Bangladesh may not mind if India took the issue of the border fracas to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). ``Involvement of a third party would help Bangladesh resolve existing border problems hanging for the past 30 years,'' a senior Home Ministry official said when his attention was drawn to a recent statement of the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. I.D. Swamy, during his recent visit to Meghalaya.

Charging Bangladesh with war crimes, Mr. Swamy had said India would take the Roumari incident to the ICJ. ``It will help establish before the world that India intruded into Bangladesh territory and the BDR had to open fire in self-defence,'' the official responded.

Probe begins

Meanwhile, the Government began an investigation into India's charges of torture of 16 BSF personnel killed on April 18. ``Our investigation into the conditions under which the (Indian) BSF men were killed has begun,'' the Foreign Secretary, Syed Muazzem Ali, said. ``The Indians have informed us of the allegations that the bodies were mutilated. We will investigate thoroughly in conformity with the allegations.''

``The investigation will cover in what conditions they got killed, where their bodies were lying, who retrieved those (bodies), when the bodies were taken for autoposy and how those were handed over to the Bsf,'' Mr. Ali said.

Normality returns

Reports from Guwahati said normality has returned to Mankachar, Karimganj and Belonia along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Nonetheless the BSF is on a maximum alert, a BSF official said. A strict vigil was being maintained along the entire border with Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Flag meetings would continue at regular intervals between officials of the BSF and BDR to defuse any tension arising on the border. Intensified patrolling was continuing along the borders to prevent any further attacks, the senior official of the BSF headquarters in Agartala said.

Meanwhile, the Mankachar police will also question the two injured soldiers returned by Bangladesh in connection with the FIR filed by the BSF regarding the killing of 16 soldiers. At present, BSF officials are questioning the soldiers undergoing medical treatment at Tura and will submit its report to the Centre.

Fresh clashes?

According to a Dhaka report, a senior Bangladesh security officer said fresh shooting had broken out from the Indian side on Friday adding that BSF officials denied any such incident. ``We heard gunshots near Achintapur border outpost on Friday night,'' Maj. Abul Quashem Mohammad Arif of BDR, Dinajpur sector, said.

Another BDR official, who asked not to be named, said both sides were continuing to bolster their forces at vulnerable points along the frontier.

- UNI, PTI, Reuters

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