India regrets deaths of Bangladeshis in firing

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New Delhi: India today regretted the death of three suspected Bangladeshi criminals allegedly in firing by BSF personnel along the international border in West Bengal last week and said such incidents can be averted through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms.

External Affairs Ministry said the policy of restraint by BSF personnel has "emboldened criminal elements" who have stepped up their attacks to facilitate their illegal activities and asked Bangladesh to take measures to restrict the movement of people along the border especially during night hours.

"It is the view of the Government of India that illegal activities, which sometimes lead to regrettable loss of lives on both sides along the border, need to be addressed through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms," MEA spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in a statement.

He was reacting to reports of the death of three Bangladeshi nationals as a result of firing on the Indian side in Govindpur in Malda District and Narayanganj in Coochbehar District of West Bengal on December 16 and 17.

Dhaka had lodged a strong protest with Indian authorities with regard to the incident and asked New Delhi to conduct an inquiry.

India proposes to continue to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh to maintain peace and harmony along the border, he said.

Government of India regrets all incidents of deaths on the border, of Indian and Bangladesh nationals, he said, noting that the BSF has exercised "utmost restraint" and resorted to firing in self defence only in rare cases to prevent loss of lives along the border areas.

India has also taken various steps, including strict control on firing, introduction of non-lethal weapons, round-the-clock domination and intensive patrolling besides imposing night time restrictions on the movement of people in the border areas, he said.

Prakash said, "Unfortunately, this policy of restraint has emboldened criminal elements who have stepped up their attacks on BSF personnel deployed along the border in order to facilitate their illegal activities. A number of attacks have been recorded on BSF personnel and posts along the India- Bangladesh border over the last few months."

In the recent incident at Malda, he said, a group of around 50-60 miscreants involved in illegal activity, not only pelted stones when challenged by the BSF jawan on duty at his post, but also tried to drag him towards the Bangladesh side of the international boundary.

"Sensing imminent danger to his life, his two colleagues fired four rounds in all resulting in the miscreants fleeing the scene leaving the BSF jawan behind," he said.

In the incident at Coochbehar, around 30-40 miscreants involved in illegal activity attacked a BSF jawan with bamboo sticks and dahs, when challenged by him.

Sensing imminent danger to his life, the BSF jawan first hurled a non-lethal stun grenade and then as a last resort opened fire at the armed miscreants in self-defence. Both incidents took place 200 to 250 meters from the international boundary inside Indian territory, he said.

One BSF jawan was injured in the incident and is currently in hospital undergoing treatment. BSF has ordered an enquiry into these incidents, the spokesperson said.

He said the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP), signed between India and Bangladesh in July 2011, envisages joint responsibility of both the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to synergise their efforts to ensure effective control over cross-border illegal activities and crimes as well as for the maintenance of peace and harmony along the border.

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