New Delhi/Dhaka: In a first of its kind incident, Bangladeshi border guards opened fire at a Border Security Force (BSF) team on Thursday killing a jawan after a 'flag meeting' along the Indo-Bangla riverine frontier in West Bengal, officials said. A second jawan was injured in the firing incident.
The action against the Indian personnel in what was called by officials in New Delhi as "high handedness" by the BGB sparked tension prompting the BSF chief, V K Johri, to call up his counterpart Major General Shafeenul Islam over hotline. However, in a statement issued late night in Dhaka, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said they fired the gunshots in "self defence".
The BGB Director General assured Johri a thorough probe into the incident, officials said.
The jawan killed in the shooting was identified as head constable Vijay Bhan Singh, who was from Chamaroli village in Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh. The 51-year-old trooper, who is survived by his wife and 2 young sons, had joined the BSF in 1990.
The BGB in the statement said their patrol team tried to detain three Indian fishermen who had entered into Bangladesh waters in an engine-run boat, but two of them managed to flee. Soon four armed BSF men, including one in uniform, intruded 650 yards inside the Bangladesh territory with a speedboat to take away the detained fisherman.
However, the BGB team told the BSF personnel that the issue could be settled through a flag meeting in line with the practice and also told them that since they too intruded into Bangladesh's territory, they would be handed over to the authorities after the proposed meeting. The situation created panic among the Indian border guards, the statement said.
"The BSF men then turned furious and opened gunfire and started going back to their (Indian) territory," it said.
"The BGB patrol team fired gunshots in self-defence amid gunfire by the BSF men," the statement said, adding that it was revealed later at a commander-level flag meeting that a BSF member was killed and another injured during the fire exchanges.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh's home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal termed the incident "unexpected", but said the unwanted episode took place as four armed BSF men intruded more than 500 yards inside the Bangladesh territory.
The BGB said later in a meeting the BSF commandant concerned and his Bangladesh counterpart decided to investigate the incident from their respective sides.
The meeting was held "peacefully" and the two sides also decided to hold further talks on the issue, the statement said.
The relations between the border forces of India and Bangladesh that guard the 4,096-km long international border have been very cordial and no bullet has been fired between them for decades.
The first of its kind incident is an aberration and efforts are being made to ensure that the situation does not deteriorate, officials said.
The top security establishment in New Delhi was taken aback by the incident and the Union ministries of home and external affairs were briefed by the BSF.
A BSF statement said the incident took place under the Kakmarichar border post of the BSF in Murshidabad district around 9 am when a force party approached BGB personnel, standing at a "char" or a riverine in the middle of the Padma river, to resolve an issue linked to Indian fishermen.
Officials said the trouble arose when the BGB personnel held three Indian fishermen who were allowed by the BSF to fish within the International Border, that runs through the middle of the 3-km-wide Padma river.
The river offers a rich catch of the hilsa fish.
A BGB team then allowed two fishermen to go and inform the BSF that the third person has been held by them and that was when the BSF post commander of the 117th battalion, a sub-inspector, took a 6-member party on a motor-boat to resolve the issue, the statement said.
A BGB jawan identified only as Sayed fired from behind when the BSF party started to return on their motor-boat after sensing the "aggressiveness" by the Bangladeshi personnel and an intention to "surround" them, officials said.
The BGB trooper, officials said, fired from his AK-47 rifle and shot Vijay Bhan Singh on his head, while constable Rajvir Yadav sustained bullet injuries on his hand.
Singh died on the boat itself while Yadav deftly saved the boat from sinking and managed to bring it to the Indian side.
A fisherman, identified as Pranab Mandal of Shirochar village, is stated to be still in the custody of the BGB.
Senior BSF officials reached the spot and are assessing the situation.
Security has been stepped up all along the Indo-Bangla border in the wake of the incident. The two forces meet biannually and the last Director General-level talks took place in June this year at BGB's headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka.