Meghalaya villagers flee as Bangladesh guards open fire

Shillong, Feb 18 (Calcutta Tube) Several schools along the India-Bangladesh border have been closed and around 500 people fled their villages in Meghalaya due to ‘intermittent and unprovoked firing’ by Bangladesh border guards, officials said here Thursday.

Border Security Force (BSF) Inspector General Prithviraj Singh told reporters: ‘Since Feb 4, the BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) troopers have resorted to intermittent and unprovoked firing in Jaintia Hills district.’

‘Whenever the villagers go to the border areas for fishing or farming, the BDR ‘jawans’ (troopers) start iring,’ he said.

‘Though there was no firing on either side since Monday, Bangladeshi civilians, backed by BDR troopers chased away Indian villagers whenever they went for farming, evoking panic among the residents,’ Singh said.

‘We have strengthened all our BOPs (border outposts) and put BSF troopers on maximum alert. If the BDR indulges in a misadventure, we will give them a befitting reply,’ he said.

A state government official said in Shillong: ‘At least five schools along the border have remained closed since Monday and about 100 families comprising 500 men, women and children have left their homes, fearing further backlash.’

An inconclusive meeting between senior officials of the BSF and the BDR was held Wednesday to quieten the situation.

Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang has appraised union Home Minister P. Chidambaram of the border situiation by phone.

‘I have informed him about the latest situation and about villagers leaving their homes and taking shelter in safer places,’ Lapang told reporters.

Lapang said he has requested Chidambaram to take up the matter with his Bangladeshi counterpart at the earliest.

Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is hilly and unfenced, and hence prone to frequent infiltration.

According to official records, 551.8 acres of Bangladeshi land is in possession of India, while 226.81 acres of Indian land is in possession of Bangladesh. All these areas are disputed.

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