NATIONAL

Exchange of fire on Bangla border

BORDER TENSION: BSF men take position during a prolonged exchange of fire with Bangladesh Rifles in the Muchia area in Malda district of West Bengal on Friday. This followed a dispute over construction of an embankment on the Mahananda.

BORDER TENSION: BSF men take position during a prolonged exchange of fire with Bangladesh Rifles in the Muchia area in Malda district of West Bengal on Friday. This followed a dispute over construction of an embankment on the Mahananda.  

Firing after BDR fails to heed BSF objections to stop embankment work

KOLKATA: There was intermittent exchange of fire — heavy at times — for nearly seven hours, between the Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) near the Muchia border outpost on the Indo-Bangladesh border on Friday.

The border post is about 15 km east of Malda in West Bengal.

No casualties were reported from the Indian side till afternoon, Principal Staff Officer, Deputy Inspector-General, BSF (East) S. K. Mitra, told The Hindu here.

Violation of agreement

The firing began at 10.15 a.m., after repeated objections by the BSF's 27th Battalion in Malda to the BDR to cease embankment protection work using cement blocks along theMahananda river banks,were not heeded.

The work, the BSF said, was being done at sites in Bangladesh within 150 yards from the zero-line. This was in violation of a 1975 border agreement between the two countries stipulating that areas falling within that distance from the border should not be transgressed upon by either side.

The exchange of hostilities ceased shortly after 5 p.m.

People in the border villages of Muchia and Adampur being evacuated by the BSF following the gunbattle.

People in the border villages of Muchia and Adampur being evacuated by the BSF following the gunbattle.  

The BDR reportedly deployed additional troops after bringing in scores of labourers to carry out the work, official sources in Malda said.

The incident was reported to the Union Home Ministry by the BSF authorities, who have also intimated the BDR headquarters in Dhaka of the developments.

The Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission about two months ago had ordered status quo and put on hold embankment work on the Bangladesh side following objections raised by the BSF,the sources added.

The BDR, inreturn, started challenging moves to carry out anti-erosion work on Mahananda banks on the Indian side between the two outposts of Muchia and Adampur. But the BSF decided that the work would go on despite BDR objections as it was well outside the 150-yard flank from the zero line.

Anti-erosion work was imperative to protect the area from floods that could submerge the border fencing in the area. "Moreover, it posed no defence threat as only sandbags were dumped into the river to prevent erosion," Mr. Mitra said.

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