The ripples of the violence sweeping Bangladesh have breached the porous borders and reached Bengal. On Thursday, rioting by the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami claimed 53 lives across Bangladesh following the death sentence awarded to its senior leader Dilwar Hossain Sayeedee by the war crimes tribunal. And Bengal, especially Kolkata, spent a sleepless night.
The BSF alerted all its posts along the border and the director-general of police, Naparajit Mukherjee, issued a red alert in such bordering districts as Malda, Murshidabad and the North and South 24-Parganas.
The administration is keeping a close eye on the developments across the border. In Kolkata, security around the Bangladesh High Commission in Park Circus has been stepped up following several Muslim organisations in the city showing solidarity with the Jamaat.
"The Bangladesh government is hanging innocent people. The country is becoming another Egypt and innocents are being killed by the police," Maulana Shafique Quasmi, Imam of Nakhoda Masjid, said.
On February 21, pro-Jamaat outfits wanted to organise a rally in Kolkata to show their solidarity with their leaders across the border. But the police refused them permission fearing violence.
Although there is no exodus from Bangladesh to India as yet, the BSF is on the alert. "Our forces are on high alert. But till now, there's no panic in the border areas," BD Sharma, the additional director-general of the BSF, told HT.
However, there were reports of some violence at the offices of clearing and forwarding agents across the border. In some places, border trade has been halted for the time being.
But there is a mad scramble among Bangladeshis who had come to Kolkata as tourists or on business. In central Kolkata's Sudder Street, where most of the Bangladeshis stay, the mood was sombre. Most were busy trying to take the next bus back to their homes. "Although we're issuing tickets, there's no guarantee that our buses will ply. Everything depends on the situation in Bangladesh," Firoz Khan of Shyamali Paribabhan told HT. Pintu Basak of Hotel DK International, added, "Our guests from Bangladesh are restless. They want to leave Kolkata as soon as possible."