A Border Security Force (BSF) jawan has died in a shootout by the Bangladeshi Army on the India-Bangladesh border. Another jawan, who was seriously injured, has been admitted to a hospital for treatment. According to the information received, BSF personnel were searching for some fishermen who had been taken hostage by the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB).
BSF chief VK Johri has sought an explanation from his counterpart Major General Shafeenul Islam over a hotline. The BGB director-general has assured a thorough investigation into the incident, according to sources.
On Thursday, three Indian fishermen went fishing in the Padma River on the India-Bangladesh border that runs through the middle of the 3-km-wide Padma. The river offers a rich cache of hilsa.
Two of the fishermen later returned and reported at the BSF’s Kakamichar post that the BGB had caught all three of them but later released two from the group.
According to the fishermen, the BGB had asked them to call the BSF Post Commander for a flag meeting.
When the BSF post commander of the 117th battalion, a sub-inspector, took a six-member party on a motor-boat to resolve the issue at about 9 AM this morning in search of the Indian fisherman who had not returned, BGB opened fire on them. The BGB personnel were seen standing at a char or a riverine in the middle of the Padma river.
A bullet hit the head of head constable Vijay Bhan Singh. Constable Rajvir Yadav sustained a bullet injury on his hand but managed to steer the boat to safety. Both the jawans were taken immediately to a hospital nearby although Vijay Bhan Singh had perhaps died before their boat made it ashore.
Indian border security personnel, either from the BSF or the Army, dying in Bangladeshi firing is a rare happening but it has serious political ramifications. At least 16 BSF personnel were killed on 18 April 2001 by Bangladeshi troops in a forward village in Assam, even as in neighbouring Meghalaya, the Bangladesh Rifles had occupied the Pyrduwah village for days at a stretch, escalating tension on the border. This had happened at the time of AB Vajpayee’s rule. The sight of the bodies of some of the BSF jawans being whisked to India, hung from sticks with the limbs tied, had created a political turmoil in India.
While India’s relations with Bangladesh are constantly improving, the issue of Bangladeshi infiltration has not been addressed as yet. Islamists continue to thrive under the regime of Sheikh Hasina Wajed. In this backdrop, the “apparent high handedness” of the BGB soldiers has heightened tension between the two sides.
The situation is dichotomous as relations between the two forces have been cordial for the past decade. BSF sources called this incident an “aberration” and said it will be ensured the situation does not deteriorate.
The BSF has briefed the Union home ministry and Ministry of External Affairs in the meantime.
A BGB jawan identified as Sayed has been held responsible for firing with an AK-47 from behind at their motor-boat when the BSF party was on its way back, having met with hostile behaviour of their Bangladeshi counterparts.
The BSF has stepped up security along the 4,096-km Indo-Bangla border in the wake of the incident.