BSF soldier shot dead by Bangladesh border guards after flag meeting
A Border Security Force (BSF) trooper was shot dead and another injured by Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), in what is perhaps the first skirmish between the two border forces in over 15 years. BSF claimed the BGB men opened fire without provocation; the latter initially claimed that BSF troopers had opened fire.
BSF chief Vivek Johri spoke to Major General Shafeenul Islam, director general of BGB, on the phone after the incident, two home ministry officials with knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
They added that Islam had promised a thorough probe. India too will conduct an inquiry into the exact sequence of events, the two officials said.
India and Bangladesh share a 4,097-km-long border that runs through Assam, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The two border forces have excellent coordination and share a warm relationship, one of the officials cited above said.
“The firing and the death was extremely unfortunate. Weapons that were carried by the BSF troopers have been sent for a forensic examination to ascertain whether they too fired as claimed by Bangladesh,” this person added.
Bangladesh initially claimed that BSF troopers crossed over into its territory and fired when leaving a flag meeting, but did not press the claim, the official said.
A head constable of BSF died and another BSF trooper was injured in the firing that happened in an island on the Padma river, on the Bangladesh side. The BSF team had crossed over to hold a flag meeting to secure the release of an Indian fisherman held by BGB, a BSF officer posted in West Bengal said on condition of anonymity.
The incident took place near the Kakmari Char border outpost in Bengal’s Murshidabad district, at least 200km away from Kolkata, around a few minutes before midday, on Thursday.
The head constable who lost his life has been identified as Vijay Bhan Singh, 50. Both he and the injured trooper belonged to the 117 Battalion of the BSF. The injured man was shifted to Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital.
Describing the incident as “unprovoked and unprecedented in memory”, a second senior BSF officer of South Bengal Frontier said: “On Thursday morning, some Indian fishermen were catching fish in the Indian territory of the Padma river when some BGB personnel entered the Indian territory and took three fishermen to the Bangladesh territory. However, later they released two of them.”
After returning, the two fishermen narrated the incident to the BSF officers of the Kakmari Char outpost, following which the latter got in touch with the BGB and it was decided that a flag meeting would be held at the international border (IB) line. A flag meeting is one between local commanders on, or near to, an international border to resolve an issue.
“Around 11am, under the leadership of a sub-inspector of BSF, head constable Vijay Bhan Singh and four others reached the border by boat for the flag meeting with BGB officials,” the second BSF officer added.
According to the officer, BGB officers were not keen to discuss the matter. “After waiting for about 40 minutes in the boat, the BSF team prepared to return after leaving a message for the BGB to fix a mutually convenient time for the flag meeting,” added the BSF officer.
”Suddenly, a head constable of BGB who was identified only as Syed started firing . A bullet pierced the skull of the head constable and Rajvir Yadav, 35, who was at the wheel of the boat, sustained a bullet injury in his hand,” said the BSF officer.
The BSF team never even got down from the boat.
“We could have retaliated but that would have resulted in things turning ugly. So our personnel immediately left the area,” said the second BSF officer.
The Border Guards Bangladesh said that the BGB patrol team informed the BSF they had entered Bangladesh illegally and that they can only return to India through an official flag meeting. The BSF members then tried to flee, and when we stopped them, BSF opened fire, prompting the Bangladeshi force to retaliate in self defence, the BGB was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Foreign policy experts said the two countries have a “mature” relationship and must maintain peace and tranquility. “India and Bangladesh have a very promising relationship. That is not to say there aren’t any wrinkles, but those are being handled very maturely. Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit only underlined the maturity and promise of the relationship. The decision to order an inquiry and maintain peace and tranquility along the border is a very matured way of handling the issue,” said ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar (retd), who has served in Dhaka among other diplomatic positions in Washington DC, Brussels, Moscow, Geneva.