India, Bangladesh border guards trade heavy fire

Kolkata, August 20:

Indian and Bangladeshi border guards resumed heavy exchange of gun fire early today along the frontier in West Bengal’s Malda district over a row on the construction of a river embankment by India. With the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) resuming firing from the Gilabari outpost after a night’s lull, the exchange of fire along the border started in the morning, Border Security Force (BSF) Deputy Inspector General SK Mitra said. The gun battle erupted yesterday morning after BDR troopers opened fire on BSF men supervising the construction of an embankment to prevent erosion by the Mahananda river at Adampur in Malda. Work on the embankment has been suspended, BSF sources said.

The Mahananda flows into Bangladesh from India. Sources said the BDR might have been replaced by the troops of the Bangladesh Army in the sector along the Malda border, raising fears the firing may intensify. Police and district officials, including the district magistrate of Malda, have reached the troubled spot. Yesterday, nearly 1,200 rounds were exchanged at Poladanga and Gilabari outposts, BSF sources said. The fresh firing today halted the return of villagers on the Indian side, evacuated to safer places yesterday, to their homes. According to the BSF, Bangladeshi subversive elements responsible for Wednesday’s serial blasts in that country might try to enter the Indian side along the Malda border. State Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia had said yesterday that talks between BSF and BDR officials were initiated to bring the situation under control. The border skirmish comes close on the heels of India offering help to Dhaka to hunt for those responsible for the nearly 400 blasts in Bangladesh that killed two people and wounded nearly 140. An alert was sounded along the 2,216-km Bangladesh border in West Bengal following the blasts in that country.

The India-Bangladesh frontier along West Bengal and India’s northeastern states has witnessed several skirmishes between border guards of the two sides in recent years.