An International Ghost Story From 1971: Dead Soldiers Guard International Border

Soldiers at the Khalpara International Border Out Post (IBOP), managed by the Border Security Force of India (BSFI), have been facing a number of unwanted problems for a long time. This has come to light from an incident that took place in the BSFI camp that lies on the India-Bangladesh International Border under Haldibari Police Station (PS) at Jalpaiguri district in the Northeast Indian State, West Bengal (NEISWB).

The Jawan (soldiers) of the BSFI Khalpara IBOP camp noticed a number of snakes within the camp area. This caused anxiety among the jawans and they were frightened. The snakes went away, but after they tried to drive out the snakes, they reappeared again later. As a result of this, they had many sleepless nights. “On the 8th of June, 2009, Pravin Kumar, one of the Santri (guards) noticed a number of snakes in the camp areas. I saw them myself, and so did others in the camp.

Border Martyr Tomb 01
A BSFI soldier salutes an epitaph to pay homage to three senior colleagues, who were sacrificed their lives for their country after being hit by a mortar shell from East Pakistan Rifle Force in the Liberation War of 1971 at Khalpara IBOP (village) at Haldibari Police Station, Jalpaiguri District of Eastern Indian State, West Bengal (WB). The force always keep this bed free for their dead colleagues.

At once, we had taken steps and drove the snakes out of the camp. But, we can’t stop the coming of the snakes in the camp. The snakes come again and again and have caused fear among all. Other Jawans and myself have tried their best to clear up the snakes; but, the coming of the snakes cannot be stopped.

“The incidents have occurred repeatedly,” revealed Sub Inspector (SI) – Sunderlal Singh, the platoon commander of 95-Battalion (BN), in-charge of the IBOP BSFI camp in October, 2009. Apart from this incident, the residents also confronted some unearthly incidents, which have created a great fear among the jawans of the Khalpara IBOP BSFI camp.

“After 2-3 days, one night, one of the other guards, while on duty felt someone slapping him. The other guards also agreed to his story of an invisible man, who was found slapping some other guards as well.

“This happened, when sometimes the soldiers were negligent or became unconscious during their duty (at night),” claimed Constable Prakash Singh, (BSFI 95-BN) who posted at Dangapara International Border Out Post. But, initially, Sunderlal Singh denied the matter or didn’t want to believe the facts and subsequently, didn’t pay any heed to it. He neither lit any candle nor burned any incense sticks beside the martyr’s alter. As a result of this, these unwanted incidents begin to occur there. At last to mitigate the problem, Sunderlal started to light candles and burn incenses sticks beside the martyrs tombs. Not only that, he had also ordered all camp residents strictly that nobody should show any negligence in their work during duty period in that particular Khalpara IBOP.

This helped to solve the problem at the camp. But, the people of this area neither believe nor disbelieve in it. According to some, it is an imaginary matter or a made-up story, while others say there may be truth in the stories of Sunderlal or Pravin Kumar. But, the Jawans still believe in it and the incidents still take place when there are any lapses during duty hours in the camp. In fact, they believe that it was three Jawans who had become Shahid (that is, courted death) during the ‘Liberation War, of 1971’ who had died in this particular Khalpara IBOP of Jalpaiguri district, near the International Border Pillar 781/09-s, opposite the Bangladeshi villages of Dangapara, Jadurban and Vogdaguri (near the International Border Pillar 781/07-s) in the Nilphamari district of Bangladesh.

In the afternoon of 11th August, 1971, the Jawans were killed by a bombshell of the then East Pakistan which is presently Pakistan State (that is, popularly known as – Purbo Bango or Purbo Bangla, presently, called – Bangladesh) and were of the 73rd Battalion of BSFI. The titles and names of those killed were:

– Head Constable (66733027) – Anil Kumar Sircar,

– Head Constable (66733112) – Mohini Mohan Roy, and

– Constable (66733522) – Man Bahadur Rai.

.” …. It was around 05:00 pm; suddenly, we found a jeep which appeared on the other side of the international boundary, and about 3-4 soldiers of the then East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) came out of the jeep. They were carrying something (which turned out to be a Mortar Shell) upon their shoulders and then jumped to the ground. After around 25 to 30 minutes, a murmuring sound was heard and subsequently a fireball exploded on the ground. We were astounded and ran to a safer place.

These EPR soldiers also visited this place in the early morning, around 08:00 am …..,” said one of the eyewitnesses, Ashok Roy, who was a little boy, 7 years old, at that time in the Khlapara hamlet. .” …. Our house stood just 250 yards away from the international borderline between India and former East Pakistan (that is, present Bangladesh).

Like other days, that day also, I went to bring jute-sticks, which were lying beside the nearby field for drying. Then, while I was returning from the nearby field with jute sticks, unexpectedly, I heard a series of unceasing firing. I saw volleys of bullets coming from the gun triggered by the EPR solders from across the international boundary.

Hearing and seeing these, I rushed to our abode bending my head down. While going to our hut, I saw a BSFI Jawan on the ground with a bullet injury, and the other Jawans were busy carrying away that injured Jawan towards their camp.

Then after just a few minutes (perhaps 3 to 4 minitues), I heard another terrible sound but couldn’t see properly. In the meantime, I had already entered into our courtyard, but I was feeling warm in the right side of the waist. I reached out my hand and found that I was bleeding profusely from my waist. At once I cried out in fear and fell flat on the ground. Others,(my family members) who were there rushed to my body after hearing my appalling sound and my loud crying. When the family members saw my ugly situation, they at once took me to the Haldibari sanatorium, and subsequently shifted to me the Jalpaiguri District Hospital at Jalpiguri district headquarter town to pull out the bullet from my waist.

After this, I do not know what had happened. But, after a month, when I recovered from this serious injury and returned to our house from the hospital, I came to know that 3 BSFI soldiers of our Khalpara IBOP camp that was pitched hardly 50 to 100-yards from our hut, had lost their lives. Their camp was totally burnt down by mortar shelling by EPR soldiers of the east Pakistan side …..,” briefed Charan Dashi Mondol, who was about 14-years-old at that time, but now, 55-years-old and residing in Khalpara village.

Supporting the facts, 76-year-old Sumitra Roy, mother of Ashim Kumar Roy recalled, “We were drying our clothes in the Uthan (courtyard) of our hut, which stood just on the international borderline (which is called ‘zero-line’) between India and former East Pakistan. But, when I was sweeping the courtyard of our house, suddenly, we heard a terrible sound, which shook the area and subsequently I saw a fireball drop flying onto our roof-shed.

At once, our house caught fire and began to burn with a great flame. Not only that, the entire area was covered by smoke and our villagers were running here and there trying to save their lives. We also fled from the house with others, and then, within a few seconds of this incident, another ball of fire dropped on our adjacent BSFI camp and burnt it to ashes. We rushed to the camp and found 3 BSFI Jawans were lying dead there. We cannot forget that frightful incident of the day ……”

.” …. 15 to 20 minutes later, some jeeps rushed to our village and cordoned the area without any loss of time. The personnel, who rushed to the spot where our Sena Jawan of India (BSFI).

All of the village reached there in a body and found that the BSFI camp that lay there was burnt to ashes and the grass had turned black, having been burnt by the fire.

We also found the bodies of the three BSFI personnel who lay dead there. The Indian BSFI soldiers took the bodies from the spot. The scene still floats before our eyes, when we think of that day …..,” evoked 46-year-old Naren Sarkar, resident of Khalpara hamlet.

.” ….At that time, I was a boy of four, now, I am 45. Around 15:00 pm, I was playing football in a nearby field (beside the international borderline, between India and former East Pakistan, that is, present Bangladesh) with my friends, while my sister was reading in the courtyard, and my mother was drying jute in the sun. Our house stands just on the Zero-line, between India and former East Pakistan (that is, part of former West Pakistan and presently, Bangladesh). About 17:00-hours, when we would have almost completed our daily football game, unexpectedly, I heard a terrible sound and saw our house was burning and everybody was running here and there for a safer place.

Seeing this, I was also began to run for a safer place …..,” said Ashim Kumar Roy, who had a house on the zero-line and has now shifted the house inside Indian territory the International Barbed Wire Border Fencing (IBWBF) was erected on the international boundary in 1993..” ….

Look, first Mukti Bahini (a freedom fighter) of Bangladesh burnt down the Dangapara IBOP, at Dangapara village, near Chilahati under Domar Upazila in Nilphamari district of EPR of East Pakistan, which was near the IBPN – 782) and as a result of this, EPR withdrew their soldiers. Later in retaliation, the EPR soldiers had visited Khalpara IBOP from their side (that is, East Pakistan side), in the early morning around 08:00 am in a jeep.

Suddenly, at about 16:30 pm, some mortar shells had been carried out by EPR soldiers with 3 vehicles and then started shelling about 17:30-hours from around 800 metres away from the international borderline (near Dangapara village, where their [EPR] company headquarter was situated) and left the place. After a little while, I saw 16 or 17 EPR soldiers come once again and set fire to the rest of the huts of our village – Khalpara, the ones which were not affected by their shelling,” pointed out 78 years old Mukti Joddhha (that is, warrior), Balaram Dutta, who was associated with Mukti Bahini during the ‘Liberation Movement of Bangladesh’ in 1971, and at that time was around 33 years old and living at Pabna Colony, Ward 6 under Haldibari Municipal Board.

“I was on duty in another nearer IBOP, Hudumdanga, which is just three kilometres away from Khalpara IBOP. It is a fact that there was a heartrending sound, and I rushed to the spot, but everything had finished. Our brother soldiers were dead.

Today, we are free from all these anxieties because we are living 200 yards inside the IBWBF on Indian land and Bangladesh got freedom and Pakistan is no longer on this side. India takes such a good steps to make this IBWBF safe.

We are happy, but commemorating the day for our brave soldiers, who died to save our motherland and to commemorate these three Shahid ( Martyrs), the soldiers as well as the populace of this Khalpara village area built this Shahid Bedi (Martyr Tomb) in the name of the soldiers to show honour to those victim soldiers. Since then, it has become a practice to light up this martyr tomb and burn incense sticks to show love and respect to those honourable martyrs.

Not only that, if any of soldier finds lapses during his duty period, he also faces the same situation …..,” disclosed septuagenarian Naren Roy, who was working with IBSFI – and at that time was around 31 years old and living at the Khalpara village.