2001 Bangladesh–India border clashes
|2001 Bangladesh-India border dispute conflict|
|1000+ (including civilians)||16 – a Brigade (2,000+)|
|Casualties and losses|
|3 killed||Officially 16 killed|
The 2001 Bangladesh-India border dispute conflict took place in the third week of April 2001 between troops of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) now it is known as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on the poorly marked international border between the two countries.
The Partition of Bengal in 1947 left a poorly demarcated international border between India and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Ownership of several villages on both sides of the de facto border were disputed and claimed by both countries. The dispute over the demarcation of the Indo-Bangladeshi border worsened due to the existence of over 190 enclaves.
One of the disputed areas was a small sliver of land near the village of Padua/Pyrdiwah, on the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya, which during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War was used by Indian security forces to train the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini, who were fighting the Pakistani Army. After its liberation, Bangladesh staked its claim to the area in which the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) had established a post in since 1971. The village is one of the Indian exclaves on the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya. There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh claimed territory and 50 Bangladeshi ones in Indian claimed territory. Pyrdiwah village is an adverse possession – a village inhabited by Indians but one that is legally owned by Bangladesh (till the border agreement is ratified and the populations exchanged). The people of the village are ethnically Khasi.
In a personal interview published much later the then director of the BDR, Maj.Gen Fazlur Rahman, who was later dismissed from service by the rival government after the election, claimed that the BSF had begun to construct a link road between their camp in Padua and another camp 10 km away, through the No man's land and Bangladeshi territory.
The 16–20 April fighting was the worst since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. It took place around the village of Pyrdiwah (also known as Padua), in the Indian state of Meghalaya which adjoins the Tamabil area of the Bangladesh border in the Sylhet district. In that area, 6.5 kilometres of the border had remained in dispute for the past 30 years, but a Status quo had been maintained for that period.
On 16 April 2001, approximately 1000 Bangladeshi soldiers attacked and captured Pyrdiwah village, breaking the Status quo and forced Indian civilians there to flee. The Indian BSF post in Pyrdiwah village was surrounded, trapping 31 BSF personnel within. However both sides held their fire and began negotiations. The Bangladeshi soldiers claimed, the village had been illegally occupied by India since Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971. The Bangladeshi soldiers stated that they were acting on orders from their government and insisted that the BSF personnel vacate the village. The next day, on 17 April, Director-General of the Bangladesh Rifles, Fazlur Rahman gave details of the Pyrdiwah thrust and stated "We have just completed a mission to restore our territory and sovereignty." This incident was resolved later without any bloodshed.
Immediately after the incident at Pyrdiwah, BSF troops along the Bangladesh border were put on alert and intensified border patrolling. A few days later, a small contingent of BSF troops entered Bangladeshi territory at the village of Baraibari, more than 200 km to the west of Padua. Unlike Pyrdiwah, which was an adverse possession – a village inhabited by Indians but one that actually belonged to Bangladesh (pending ratification of the border agreement) – Boraibari bordering Assam lay across a fence. Also, unlike Pyrdiwah, which was neither fenced nor had any pillars to clearly demarcate it, Boraibari was a large village with a population of at least 1,000. Its population had also largely been hostile to India, according to Indian security officials, over incidents of cross border violations by the villagers.
The intrusion was intended to serve as retaliation for the incident of Padua. According to Bangladesh sources, Indian forces launched an early morning attack on their posts in the frontier district of Kurigram – which lies on the border with Indian state of Assam.
Immediately upon entering Bangladeshi territory the 16 Indian paramilitary personnel were ambushed and killed by Bangladeshi soldiers assisted by hundreds of villagers. They were then allegedly tortured and executed, before their bodies were returned to the Indian side. General Gurbachan Jagat of India's Border Security Force claimed that the bodies showed signs of mutilation, including strangulation, broken bones, as well as evidence of charring and scalding. Around midnight, Indian foreign secretary, Iyer, received a call from Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Syed Muazzam Ali, saying that orders had been issued to restore status quo ante as well as for immediate withdrawal from Pyrdiwah. The BDR withdrew from Pyrdiwah by the night of 19 April.
The attack also left three Bangladeshi border guards dead and five injured. About 10,000 civilians fled the area after some 24 were wounded in the exchange of fire.
According to Indian claims, on 18 April, Bangladeshi soldiers shelled another Indian enclave village, Mancachar, with 3-inch and 8-inch mortars.
After both governments intervened in the situation, both sides returned to their original positions and restored a situation of Status quo. Fresh clashes erupted along the India–Bangladesh border just hours after both sides voiced regret for the recent killings, but by midnight of 20 April firing had again stopped. An article reported that 6,000 Indian civilians had fled the region, and Indian government officials were attempting to convince villagers to return to their homes. Bangladesh later agreed to return 16 dead Indian soldiers the next day. Upon examining the bodies of the dead personnel, India alleged that the BSF men were tortured before being shot dead. On the other hand, three Bangladeshi soldiers were also killed: two during combat and another who died of wounds sustained during operations.
Observers have variously termed the incident as a political ploy to rouse nationalistic passions before the Bangladesh elections (which was 2 months away at the time of the incident) and as adventurism by the BDR commanders. Officially, The Bangladesh Government denied it had supported the BDR's initialisation of hostilities and termed the incident as "adventurism of its local commanders".
The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India, Sheikh Hasina and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, spoke over telephone and agreed to order a high-level investigation into the incident. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raminder Jassal reported that both India and Bangladesh would improve diplomatic channels and promised to exercise restraint in the future. The Indian government avoided harsh criticisms of Sheik Hasina, nor did India demand that she apologise. India and Bangladesh started talks in March 2002 to resolve their border disputes. By July 2001, the two sides established joint working groups to establish the un-demarcated sections of the border.
Both sides desisted from any further hostilities and began border talks to discuss disputes along their 4,000-kilometre (2,500 mi) border. Relations were cooled down shortly afterwards. India later began constructing a fence along the entire length of the international border with Bangladesh. India is still in the process of constructing the Indo-Bangladeshi barrier. Bangladesh protested that construction of the fence within 150 yards of the border was a gross violation of the Indo-Bangladeshi Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace. The Bangladesh government also protested frequent BSF incursions into Bangladesh, and shootings which resulted in the deaths of Bangladeshi citizens inside Bangladeshi territory. In a news conference in August 2008, it was stated that 97 people had been killed (69 Bangladeshis, 28 Indians, rest unidentified) trying to cross the border illegally during the prior six months.
This was the first armed conflict between India and Bangladesh, two nations that had maintained friendly relations since Bangladeshi independence in 1971. The end of the brief conflict saw an upsurge of nationalism in Bangladesh. In parliamentary elections, the four-party right-wing alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh won a majority of 196 seats out of 300.
The clashes however failed to reduce the killings of civilians by the BSF. According to Odhikar, since 2001, there had 1,000 Bangladeshis killed, more than 1000 tortured, 974 abductions, 107 missing from the border, 14 Rapes, 71 snatched/looting and 313 illegal pushing.
2006 border clashes
Clashes again erupted in 2006 when heavy gunfire was exchanged between the BSF and BDR on Amalshid border in Zakiganj Upazila in Sylhet. The 14-hour long firing triggered a series of claims and counter-claims from by both sides. While the BDR officials alleged that the BSF indulged in unprovoked firing on BDR positions at Uttarkul and Amolshid borders, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka blamed the BDR for "continuing attempt at infiltration and encroachment" into approximately 220 acres of land at the western bank of the Surma River, across the BSF outposts at Harinagar, Assam.
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