At least 16 Border Security Force personnel were killed on Wednesday by Bangladeshi troops in a forward village in Assam, even as in neighbouring Meghalaya, the Bangladesh Rifles continued to occupy Pyrduwah village for the third day, escalating tension on the border, PTI reported.
Union Home Secretary Kamal Pande, quoting reports
from the BSF border camp, told reporters that the personnel were killed when the Bangladesh Army and BDR personnel resorted to unprovoked firing and shelling in Boraibari in Assam, targeting a BSF post and civilian areas.
A report from Dhaka, quoting BDR chief Maj Gen Fazlur
Rahman, said a Bangladeshi soldier was killed and
several were injured in the border clashes.
"One of our soldiers and 16 Indian soldiers were killed,
while two of their injured have surrendered," he said.
As the stand-off in Pyrduwah continued with 3,000 BDR
personnel entering the East Khasi Hill District area, BSF
reinforcements were rushed to the troubled spots.
Ramesh Menon adds from New Delhi: India has asked Bangladesh to restore the status quo ante at the border at Meghalaya, where the Bangladesh Rifles overran and took over a village.
The Union Home Ministry, it is learnt, ''has passed on a general alert to the Defence Ministry, to keep the army on alert''.
The decision was taken after reports came in of the Bangladesh Rifles trying to settle Bangladeshis in the village.
However, an army spokesman denied that the army was on high alert, saying that it was a matter to be dealt with by the Home Ministry.
Minister of State for Home I D Swami told rediff.com that the government was seriously concerned about the 16 BSF personnel who were ''missing and were reportedly in the custody of the Bangladeshi forces''.
Swami pointed out that the government was trying to resolve the issue at the political and diplomatic levels.
The government, he said, would do everything possible to ensure that the situation did not escalate.
An external affairs ministry spokesman said in the evening that "India had taken serious note of the unwarranted action of Bangladesh Rifles".
Ministry officials said that the situation would be defused through diplomatic efforts.
The intrusion, in the early hours of Sunday, came as Bangladeshi forces attacked a BSF post and took over a village.
Meghalaya Chief Minister E W Mawlong is sending five ministers on Thursday, to survey the affected area from where 1,200 villagers had fled.
He told rediff.com that he had given details on the intrusion to Union Home Minister L K Advani on Tuesday evening. Mawlong said he had yet to hear back from the home minister.
There was a flag meeting in the evening, but Mawlong said he had no news of what transpired and claimed that he did not know what the BSF was planning to do.
Many of the 1,200 villagers who had fled from Pyrdiawh after the shootout between Bangladesh Rifles and the Border Security Force, have gone to live with friends or relatives in nearby areas, it was stated.
If any of them needed rations, the government was ready to help, he said.
Once the ministers returned, he said, he would be able to figure out how to rehabilitate the displaced villagers.
Tension continued in the area, as BSF reinforcements were sent in.
Home Minister T H Rangad, who visited the site on Tuesday, told rediff.com that there had been no new developments as the village continued to be occupied by Bangladeshi forces.
He said fresh relief supplies -- blankets, mosquito nets and foodstuff - were sent to the villagers. Some who did not have relatives were living in nearby forests and open areas, he said.
In Meghalaya, the BSF bore the brunt of public criticism. The chief minister and home minister have reportedly complained to Advani on the ineffectiveness of the BSF.
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