International Border Disputes and Adverse-Possessions of India-Bangladesh International Border. An in Depth Report of Disputed International Border River – Muhuri River
The Muhuri River is one of the trans-border rivers of India and Bangladesh. The Muhuri River rises from the Lushai Hills, also known as the Mizo Hills, of Eastern Indian State, Tripura and enters into Parshuram Upozila of former Feni Sub-division of Noakhali district of the British regime in India, presently, Feni district of Bangladesh.
The Mizo Hills are also part of the Patkai range in the Eastern Indian State of Mizoram.
While passing through the hilly regions of India, the river turns furious and wild in nature, and often causes flash-floods from time-to-time. In a few places, the river demarcates the international border between India and Bangladesh, but it first merges with the Feni river, just near the inter-district border between Feni and another district of Bangladesh – Chittagong. Then it passes through Chittagong district, before it falls into the Indian sea, the Bay of Bengal. The river divides two districts of Bangladesh.
According to the socio-political observers of the Tripura State, “The width spread out towards the sea and when it reaches near the Bay of Bengal Sea (BOBS), the brook is under tidal influence.”
Specialists on the India-Bangladesh international boundary asserted, “It is fact that one part of the river is situated on the Belonia side, while the other part of the river is the Chakla Roshnabad side, which was also a Zemindari (that is, Estate) under the princely rulers of the former Tripura Estate. At that time, it was the only revenue firm zone to exist on the fertile plain of the state. But, during partition, this particular part of Chakla Roshnabad merged with the former East-Pakistan of Pakistan State, while the hilly part of the area merged with the Indian State. At that point, the Muhuri river was considered a natural boundary for both nations.
The entire problem arose just after the Revision Settlement Survey, 1937, around 23 years later, when more strips of land, the Char, or river islands, came out from the river bed in the years – 1956, 1960, 1961 and 1966 due to heavy silting and erosion of the river’s lower course.
Subsequently, it was fully matured when the formation of the land was completed in 1974. The total area of this particular strip of char-land is 62.27 acres, based on the 2001 record, that lies in between International Border Pillar Number (IBPN)-2159/3-s to IBPN-2159/48-s (Map [Noakhali, Tripura-79] Reference Number – SQ [means-square]-6267, SQ-6167, SQ-6268, SQ-6191 and SQ-6284, (M[Map/Sheet Number]/7, M/8, scale 1” to a mile).
This char-land is not only a plain and flat sandy soil area, but also very fertile and the depth of the river water will not be more than minimum 5 to 15-feet and maximum 10 to 20-feet and is negotiable. Dor these reasons, Indian cultivators took the opportunity and used it.
Out of the total stretch of 62.27 acres, 44.87 acres fall on the Indian side, and is presently under cultivation by Indian farmers or nationals. The remaining area, measuring 17.4 acres, closer to Bangladesh is under cultivation by Bangladeshi nationals. This smaller area couldn’t be used by the Indian peasants, and is encumbered by the Bangladesh frontier guard, formerly Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), presently known as Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB). Each and every time, when the Indian cultivators wanted to plough or cultivate the Indian side of this strip of land, the BGB prevented them from doing so. As a result of this, the conflict between the two international frontier border guards had become quite a regular feature over the years. (See Sketch & Table-I & Table-II)
|ACTUAL POSITIONS, FACTS & FIGURES OF MUHURI RIVER ISLAND|
NAME OF THE
|01.||Muhuri River Char-I||(3.70+3.30)
(Near Nijkalikapur IBOP, Bangladesh)
|02.||Muhuri River Char-II||37.87||9.00||(Near right-hand side of Belonia IBOP of India)|
(Near Baurkhuma IBOP or Mazumdarhat IBV, Bangladesh)
|Total||44.87||17.40||2159/3-S to 2159/48-S|
(Source : Border Security Force of India [BSFI], 1999)
Another marine expert said, “The exact position, and the land area of the char area was around 66.093 acres, which was created because of frequent changes in course of the Muhuri River. Of that, 43.393 acres fell on the Indian side, while the rest, 22.7 acres on the Bangladesh side of the river.”
|ACTUAL POSITIONS, FACTS & FIGURES OF DAM OF MUHURI RIVER AREA|
|SERIAL NUMBER||EXISTING LENGTH
|01.||Kalinagar to Check-post||1.07||—||With Bangladesh|
|02.||Check-post to Bonkar-Ghat||3.13||1,714||With Bangladesh|
|03.||Bonkar-Ghat to Bollarmukh (BSFI-IBOP)||1.20||60||With Bangladesh|
|04.||Amzadnagar School to IBPN-2164/4-s||2.69||65||With Bangladesh|
|Total||Entire Dam of Muhuri River (of Belonia Town) with Bangladesh||8.09||1,839||With Bangladesh|
|05.||Bonkar-Ghat to Baroj Colony||1.47||80||Within India|
|Grand Total||Entire Dam of Muhuri River of Belonia Town||9.56||1,919||With Bangladesh & Within India|
Note : As on record 4th September, 2011 and Here, Dams of Muhuri River from Kalinagar to Check-post & Check-post to Bonkar-Ghat are protected 1,714-hactares areas.
Source : Water Resource Department of Public Works Department, Government of Tripura State, India
Interestingly, BGB of Government of peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh claimed a very different size, “Out of 92.13 acres of land, a total of 48.13 acres is termed ‘Disputed Land’ and 35.23 acres of land are under the control of Bangladeshi peasants, while 8.6 acres of land are under the siege or occupation of Indian cultivators, though, the particular Disputed Land is under no one but the status quo is maintained by both frontier forces.”
To demarcate the international borderline in this particular sector, the former East Pakistan Government, now Bangladesh, wanted to follow the Chakla-Roshnabad Estate Map (CREM)s of 1892-1894. However, the Government of India didn’t agree to it but wanted to follow the ‘Awards of the arbitrators deputed to adjust the boundary between British and former independent Tripura, including Belonia town areas, as was settled between the 18th October, 1854 and 1st November, 1854.’
However, the international borderline that followed the left bank of the river is also shown on the sketch as stated by Chakla-Roshanabad Estate Map (CRM)s of 1893. Indeed parenthetically, it is this part of the river that creates the international border, which falls in between South Tripura district and Feni district (erstwhile Sub-division of Noakhali district of Bangladesh), which was mentioned in the records as erstwhile both (Indian) Tripura-Noakhali sector of East Pakistan state, now Bangladesh).
According to Indian historians and the historical documents or evidences of the India Gazettes, “Tripura Estate, now a State of India, first appears in the 14th-century. During the last part of Mughal, (a Muslim community,) Shamrajya, that is Mughal Empire, the kings of Tripura (Hill Tripura) was under the control of Mughal emperor of Delhi. This was at the time India was undivided, and an elephant tax had to be paid, supplying a good number of elephants each year.
Another king, Dharma Manikya-II (between 1713-1729), who was the head of Chakla Roshnabad Estate, (CRE, or Plain Tripura) was under the control of the Nawab (Provincial Governor of Ruler) of Bengal (former undivided Bengal of Undivided India) also had to pay Rs. 50,000.00 as revenue to the Nawab and at that time, this king of CRE became a Zemindar (Landlord or Head of the Estate). This was actually the Plain Tripura known as Chakla Roshnabad, during the Mughal period.
It was not until the beginning of the 17th century, which the ‘Mughal Empire’ extended its sovereignty over Tripura Estate; in 1761, the British Force of the East India Company took over or invaded and ruled everything in Tripura Estate – the Plain and Hill sectors. At that time, the king of the whole of Tripura was Maharaj Krishna Manikya.
Indeed, Tripura Estate was a vast land of plains and hills. The eastern hilly part was called ‘Hilly Tripura’ or ‘Hill Tippera’, while the western plain part, up to the bank of Meghna river, which was actually under erstwhile Comilla District of East Pakistan, was called ‘Plain Tripura’ or ‘Chakla Roshnabad’.
At that time, besides being the king of Hill Tippera, the Raja (King) had also ruled the estate called Chakla Roshnabad Estate (CRE), which was later recognized as a district, during British Rule. This CRE had four parts, which was under the former Nawab of Bengal. Two parts lay in Tippera Zilla (district), presently Comilla district of Bangladesh; one part in (present) Noakhali district, while the other part lay in the (now) Sylhet district of Bangladesh.
Local observers and historians of the Tripura State pointed out, “The exact area of CRE was disputed. Kailash Chandra Singha, the royal chronicler, said it was 3,67,335 acres, but a British survey documented the total area at 3,77,100 acres or 589 square miles. According to J. G. Cumming, who surveyed the area from 1892-1899, said the area was 3,57,529 acres or 553.77 square miles. U. K. Das, a minister of the Tripura king, in his administrative report revealed that in 1890, the area was 3,95,631-acres. Not only that the J. G. Cumming also stated that 49 Pargana (a collections of hamlets, which are part of a district) were reduced to 31 pargana with 1,511 villages.”
According Indian Tripura State Government records, “Chakla means ‘Circle’ and Roshnabad means ‘The Land of Light’. Chakla Roshnabad is a place, where first meeting between Tripura Raj and the British East India Company. On 24th March, 1829, this was under Zemindary System, an integral part of Tripura Raj or Tripura Estate, after the verdict was delivered or declared by the Sadar Dewani Adalat.”
“After the take-over by the British Force of the East India Company, this Tripura Estate was an independent administrative estate (that is, Zemindari) of the kings of Tripura. In a word it could say, both Hill Tripura and Plain Tripura came under the one administrative and became a part and parcel of Tripura king or Zemindar during the British Rule in India. But, in the year – 1905, this estate was attached to the province, namely – Eastern Bengal and Assam and basically from that period Hill Tripura known as ‘Hill Tippera’.
The last ruling king of Tripura, Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya, ascended the throne in 1923 and it was settled that Tripura should accede to the newly independent country of India. The king died suddenly, at the age of 39, on 17th May, 1947, while his son Yuvaraj Kirit Bikram was a minor.
The Chakla Roshnabad estate was then added to East Pakistan, one of the largest provincial states of West Pakistan, now Bangladesh, on 14th August, 1947 by Sir Cyril Radcliff Radcliff was appointed by Great Britain in June, 1947 to chair two Boundary Commissions, and drew an arbitrary line to divide the two states.
In the 1950s, the erstwhile East Pakistan State Government of Pakistan Government abolished the Jomidari Protha (Zemindari System or Zemindari Rights). That is, on 14th October, 1955, East Bengal (locally called Purbo Bango or Purbo Bangla) renamed as East Pakistan (locally called Purbo Pakistan) of West Pakistan (locally called Poshchim Pakistan) of present Pakistan State. As a result of this, a huge chunk of lands were lost by the Maharaja of Tripura.
Ultimately, Tripura Estate, the Hill Tripura side, officially became part of India on 15th October, 1949, and was made a ‘Union Territory’ on 1st September, 1956 and lastly became a Constituent full-fledged ‘State’ of the Indian Union on 21st January, 1972,” according to local socio-political experts in Tripura State.
The issue was resolved by the pact prepared between the Government of India and the Bangladesh Government in 1974 (Vide Para – 5 and 6 of Article – I of the Agreement). According to para – “(5)” of the India Bangladesh Land Border Agreement, 1974, which clearly said : ‘During the time of demarcation, this particular International Riverine Border (IRB) between the two nations should be demarcated along the mid-stream of the course of the river Muhuri, which IRB will be fixed boundary. Not only that the above Muhuri river should be kept totally separate from the remaining part of the Tripura (Indian State)-Noakhali-Comilla (districts of Bangladesh) sector, where the demarcation was to be complete on the basis of Chakla-Roshanabad Estate Map (CRM)s of 1892-1894 as well as the District Settlement Maps of 1915-1918. Even, both side governments should be made spurs on their respective portions with a view to not only steadying the above river in its existing course but also check erosion and siltation.’
On the other hand, as per para “(6)” of the pact, – ‘The demarcation of this particular international borderline zone should be finished on the basis of Chakla-Roshnabad Estate Maps of 1892-1894 and the South Tripura District Settlement Maps of 1915-1918 for these particular sites, which haven’t been wrapped up by the above Chakla-Roshnabad Maps.’
Local Indian political think-tanks say neither Pakistan, nor Bangladesh adhered to the agreement. “According to the records, after the merger of Tripura kingdom into India, India said to East Pakistan Government of Pakistan on 27th January, 1957, to solve the issue as per CRMs-1892. But Pakistan didn’t agree. Similarly, in course of time, Bangladesh didn’t pay any heed to India’s CRM-1892 proposal. In this context, India was affirmed that Bangladesh’s firmness on referring to the Chakla-Roshanabad Estate Map (CRM)s of 1893 is differing to the declaration delineated in 1974, where the international boundary should be outlined along the course of the river Muhuri, during the time of demarcation.
Bangladesh repeatedly insisted on referring to the IRB outlined on the basis of CRMs of 1893. Because it gave around 44-acres of land, which was more than what it would if the demarcation was completed on the basis of the existing stream of the Muhuri river.
Since 1893, the river changed its courses from many times, running around the conclave that Bangladesh had declared to be its own territory according to the map of CRMs of 1893. The demarcation of the remaining part of Tripura (Indian State)-Noakhali-Comilla (districts of Bangladesh) sector also should be concluded on the basis of Chakla-Roshanabad Estate Map (CRM)s of 1892-1899. In a word, Bangladesh considers and argues that both sectors must be solved under CRMs, which was not only relevant but also to reduce the conflict between both sides for these reasons.”
BSFI reports, documents and CRMs claimed (see sketch), “The Government of Bangladesh made a claim that the international border from IBPN-2159/3-S should track according to said CRMs up to point ‘A’ and subsequently expanded up to point ‘B’, where it meets or merges the mid-stream of the presently existing (that is, flowing) the Muhari river. From IBPN-2159/48-S, it should be marked added as said by CREMs through points ‘C’ and ‘D’ till it merges the midstream of the Muhuri river at point ‘E’. In between the points ‘B’ and ‘E’ it should follow midstream of the river.”
According to the BSFI reports, “The international boundary between erstwhile Tripura Estate and British province of Bengal was determined as per award map of 1854, prepared by M/S Lycestor and Cambell. As per this award map, Muhuri river course was very close to the existing Belonia flood protection bund and if is to be accepted as boundary then almost entire Muhuri river char-land as existing today, would go to Bangladesh.
In 1892, British Bengal prepared a unilateral map for their territory, while preparing this map, award map of 1854 was taken into account. The maps of 1892 were scientifically prepared and can be relied on the ground. According to the map of 1854 the above international boundary was to run along with left bank of the river. No specific mention of the maps of 1854 had been taken into account and it was assured that the boundary was to run again along the left bank of the river Muhuri as shown in this map.
During the time of the Revision Settlement Survey (RSS) conducted in 1937, a large part of the char land was recorded as khas (private) land of different Jotedar (tenure-holders or farmers), the remaining portions being recorded as khas. Not only that, in the records of RSS of 1937, it was also mentioned that there was a local ‘cremation ground’ existed or located in the char-land area, which was also the khas land. At that time the land area was around 19.92 acres.
After partition in 1947, Tripura Estate merged with India. And a result of this, the boundary between the Indian State, Tripura and the then East Pakistan was to become the international boundary between East Pakistan of Pakistan and India. When demarcation of the international boundary of this sector was taken up, at that time, the maps of 1854 and 1892 were taken into consideration. The District Land Revenue (DLR) of Indian Tripura State and the DLR of Bangladesh on 27th June, 1957, started demarcation on the basis of the maps of 1892. But, the DLR of East Pakistan didn’t agree to this and further demarcation was suspended.
In 1959, to maintain peace in this area, a working boundary was commander. According to this negotiation, the working boundary was run along the Belonia flood protection bund and the entire Muhuri river char-land was to be with East Pakistan. It was also decided that both sides shouldn’t cultivate this land, until the final international boundary demarcation is done. This agreement was later on not considered and the area remained disputed.”
Thus, Bangladesh is actually demanding or claiming the whole Char (that is, River Island) area of the river that they are called as ‘Muhurir Char’. Before 1999, the populaces of Belonia town and its adjoining areas (Bhuyan Bari, Dutta Bari, Raimohon Chowdhury Bari, etcetera) cremated the dead bodies of their relatives Sanatan Religion (Hindu Community) at Shamshan Ghat cremation ground, in the char areas of Muhurir Char.
The BDR purposely fought with the BSFI in this particular spot, when the Indian peoples from Belonia area wanted to cremate their relatives.
For instance – on 1st March, 1988, the local peoples of Belonia town cremated one freedom fighter’s body in the Muhurirchar cremation ground. He was the member of Indian National Congress (INC) during the freedom movement of India. The Indian peoples hoisted an INC flag on the cremation site during his cremation. Seeing this, the BDR company commander immediately lodged a protest and the issue was further raised during a company commander-level meeting. Then, the BDR Sector Commander visited the area on 12th March, 1988. After his visit, the BDR constructed some new bunkers and repaired the old ones, created trenches and weapons pits along the Bangladesh side Muhuri river embankment and subsequently BDR International Border Out Post (IBOP) – Mazumdarhat, Nijkalikapur and Parshuram of Feni district of Bangladesh were built.
“An almost similar incident happened on 21st April, 2005, the open confrontation between two nations came closer at night, when BDR tried to stop Indian villagers from cremating a fish merchant at Belonia at the Muhuri river char. BDR soldiers asked the Indian civilians of Belonia town not to cremate the dead body of Biraj Das in the char-land (river island) area and threatened to open fire on the Indian peoples. After that, the Bangladesh frontier border guards moved away, when the Indian villagers sought BSFI help. The cremation was completed without any incident,” recounted Anil Kumar, a BSFI official, who was posted at Belonia.
Actual Position or Map of Muhuri River course is flowing between International Border
(Belonia Nagar Panchayet Area) India & (Feni District) Bangladesh
“Before 1999, the peoples of Belonia town and its adjoining areas cremated the dead bodies of their beloved at the cremation ground, in the middle of the Muhuri river’s char-land. This particular cremation ground also locally known as Maha Shamshan Ghat, situated just opposite of Belonia IBOP of BSFI. Because of that, this particular river island area was also locally called ‘Shamshaner Char’. But when Bangladesh raised objections, to avoid the evil motive of the BDR and the peoples of Bangladesh, the citizens of Belonia town areas shifted their cremation work from Muhurir Char (Maha Shamshan Ghat) to Mohismianh Ghat (river bank). Then Bangladesh again raised a hue and cry about the Belonia peoples at Mohismianh Ghat, it was shifted to Bonkar (Forest Tax)-Ghat (Near Karuna Roy Setu (bridge area), which is around 1 to 1.50 kilometres away from the disputed Muhuri river char-land,” narrated the vice-chairperson of the Belonia Nagar (means-Town) Panchayet of Belonia on 30th August, 2011.
There are embankments on both sides of the river. “The embankment of Bangladesh, which was also made for flood protection all along the far bank of the Muhuri river is exactly situated opposite Indian International Border Village (IBV) – I. C. Nagar (that is, IBPN-2157/40-S to IBPN-2159/48-S), skirting BGB IBOPs -Nijkalikapur, Kalikapur, IBV – Nijkalikapur, and further southwards IBV/IBOP – Parshuram. The height of this bund varies from 10 to 15 feet in various places. Nijkalikapur and Mazumdarhat are connected through a foot-track over this bund.
The embankment on the Indian side takes shape from wooden bridge (SQ-6469) on river Muhuri (Map Nowakhali, Tripura-79 M/7 and M/8) towards south-west and further towards east up to International Immigration Custom Check Post (IICCP) of India, in the close vicinity of IBPN-2160. Its height varies from 10/15-feet to 25/30-feet at various points. The Indian side embankment (which covers the portion only of India-Bangladesh international border) is situated at Ward Number (WN)s – 3, 2, 1 and 9 of Belonia Nagar Panchayet Area (BNPA). The length of this particular portion is around 2.5 kilometres. The undisputed portions are WN-10 and WN-13, where there is no embankment, but the area is marsh lands.
Bonkar-ghat of Muhuri River is situated at WN-4 of Belonia town, where the international border is not existed between the two nations, but there are two small river islands of Muhuri River at WN-01. In a word, the disputed areas are from WN-01, WN-02, WN-03 and WN-09 of the Belonia town, while undisputed areas are WN-10 and WN-13 of the town areas.
On the other side, the breadth of the Muhuri River is around 300 to 350 metres. The Muhuri River Ghat (bank) between WN-09 to WN-10. ‘Baurkhuma char’ area falls under WN-13. The Muhuri River Char-Part-I falls under Ward Number-01, while Muhuri River Char-Part-II & Muhuri River Char-Part-III fall under Ward Number-9 of the BNPA of Belonia. Because of what was learned earlier, WN-3, WN-2, WN-1 and WN-9 were included under CREM, and that is why this particular portion has become the so-called disputed are (See Belonia Nagar Panchayet Area map),” narrated Swapan Das – one of the renowned local journalists (the reporter of the local vernacular Bengali newspaper – ‘Dainik Sambad’) of Belonia District of Eastern Indian State, Tripura.
“There are more than 100 to 150 Smriti Falak and Smriti Mandir (memorial stone-tablet and cenotaph or mausoleum) in this Muhuri river island area, which are more than 100 to 125-years-old. The local peoples made these memorial stone tablets in the names of their relatives. Perhaps it can be covered by alluvial soil or buried under alluvium of Muhuri river. Even earlier, there were immersions of Durga Protima (Durga Idols) and others that were located in this particular spot,” claimed 60-year-old, Benilal Das, who lives just near the embankment and near the Muhurir river char-land area. Benilal Das lost his own piece of agricultural land on the river-island areas.
“Due to constant objection from the BDR (presently-BGB) and the Bangladesh Government, the farmers, who live just 400 to 500 metres away from the Muhuri river island as well as close to the embankment of Muhuri river, had left their farming activities on this particular area. In a word, we can say, our neigbourer Ratan Das (55-years-old), Benilal Das (60-years-old), Nimai Das (42-years-old), Gopal Das (37-years-old), Bimal Pal (60-years-old), Shyamol Pal (60-years-old), Chhoton Dutta (62-years-old), Late Loton Dutta, Late Sukhendu Das, Late Ranjit Sil, Late Manu Mazumder, Late Ashwini Choudhury, Late Mahendra Muhuri, Kanu Deb (65-years-old), a total of around 68 peasants lost their farming-lands,” alleged cultivator, Naresh Das (58-years-old), who also dwells just near the embankment and near the Muhurir river char-land area as well and also lost his own piece of agricultural land on the river-island areas.
Supporting these facts and figures, the Government of India (according to their records) emphasized, “The international border should trail the alignment as maintained by CREMs from IBPN-2159/3-S up to spot ‘A’ and after that increased up to another spot ‘B’, where it merges the midstream of the present Muhari river that is, similarly as said by Government of Bangladesh claims. Even, from IBPN-2159/48-S, the border should follow according to CREMs up to spot ‘C’ and followed by widen up to another spot ‘F’ by the shortest distance to merge the midstream of the presently existing Muhuri river.
“However, from point ‘F’ the international border should follow the midstream of the existing Muhari river up to point ‘B’ passing through the points – ‘G’ and ‘E’. Reason : The entire part of the Muhari river from spot ‘B’ to ‘F’ in Muhari river (Belonia) sector as the Belonia township is extended all over the vicinity (see CREMs). As per ‘para 5 of the 1974 agreement,’ the international border is to be defined along midstream of the course of the river during the time of demarcation and it will be a permanent international border. It is a fact that the Muhuri river is a hilly river and it changes its course time-to-time.
“Also, the existing track of Muhari river is always crisscrossing the previous route of Muhuri river, which showed (from points ‘B’ to ‘E’) in CREMs. Thus, the gain and loss to either side would have been inconsequential. Therefore, the side (from the spot ‘B’ to ‘E’ of CREMs) couldn’t have been the key point of disagreement resulting in para 5 of the 1974 pact.”
Indian Defence Force view of Muhuri river char-land
According to the records of the Indian Defence Force, the actual topographical or geographical or strategic position of Muhuri river char-land is –
a) BGB IBOP Nijkalikapur (SQ-4268) is located on the far bank of river Muhuri (just opposite Muhuri river char-land) and is at a distance of about 10 yards away from IBPN-2159/3-S. Around 1,500 population are resided in and around the Bangladeshi IBOP, while about 200 to 300 people live in the tiny IBV – Nijkalikapur (SQ-6167) and these entire peoples belong to Bengali speaking Muslim community or Bengali Muslim community. A steel International Observation Post Tower (IOPT) also exists in the IVB, from which Bangladeshi frontier Guards personnel always keep their eyes or observation on International Border Town (IBT) – Belonia as well as the IBT’s only wooden bridge (SQ-6469) properly.
b) Another IBV of Bangladesh Mazumdarhat (SQ-6266) is located opposite to Indian IICCP of India, that is, near just IBPN-2160 and the IBV adjacent to it IBV – Baurkhuma (SQ-6266). This IBV has around 600 to 700 population and the residents are Bengali speaking Muslim. A steel IOPT is also existed in this IVB, from which Bangladeshi frontier Guards personnel always keep their eyes or observation on International Border Town (IBT) – Belonia as well as the IBV-Kalinagar and Sara-seema. A cart-track also exists, which connects the IBVs – Mazumdarhat to Parshuram of Feni district.
c) Parshuram IBOP (SQ-6264)-cum-IBV is also located opposite to the Indian IBV – (Paschim-para) Amzadnagar of Belonia Sub-division. This small IBV, Parshuram has around 10,000 population, out of which 90% Bengali speaking Muslim community people and 10% is Bengali speaking Hindu community peoples. This IBV has Railway Station – Bilonia and is well connected with district Feni, both by rail and road. Though, indeed, the Bangladesh Railway Station – Bilonia is located adjacent to the BGB IBOP camp Mazumdarhat and is at a distance of about 200 yards from their own IICCP (that is, near IBPN-2160). Bilonia (also called as Belonia in Indian side, was the strongholds camp of 15-Baluch Regiment of Pakistan Army during Liberation War, 1971, including Feni), Railway (metre-gauge) track is existed from Bilonia Railway Station (SQ-6266), near IBPN-2160 to district headquarter Feni. There are four train daily ups and downs in this railway track (Bilonia-Parshuram-Chitolia-Phulkazi-Musnshir Haat-Akadamy Haat Feni-Feni) everyday. Not only that there is a 150 yard loop shape bund skirting railway station, IBVs – Mazumdarhat and Bourkhuma (See Sketch of BSFI).
But, the irony is that later in between the years 1976 and 1977, the international boundary was again marked or fixed according to the above CREMs up to the IBPN-2159/3-S and IBPN-2159/48-S on both parts of the Muhari river, except the river portion area was unmarked. Though, the presented position of the Muhari river in the Belonia sector was assessed during the field session or survey between the years 1977 and 1978 that illustrated on the ‘sketch’ of the agreement.
‘Actually, Since Partition (that is, in the year-1947), India and Bangladesh have differences over this particular tiny river portion. But later, this area became more vulnerable, when a small river-island emerged and India had illegally captured or occupied this river island since Indo-Pak War of 1965’, as Bangladesh alleged.
Earlier, the two nations always fought each other for this small patch of this portion unnecessarily. Even, sometimes the situation as well as the image of the two friendly neighbouring states had been jeopardized as well as got big blow due to this reason. During the 1980s to 1990s, not less than 59 to 60 times indecisive gunfire occurred due to this particular point.
According to the records of the Indian Home Ministry, “Time-to-time, without any cause, the soldiers of the armed East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) of Pakistan had not only been harassing the Indian civilians in various occasions but also threatening the Indian farmers not to till in the Muhuri river island, even had taken away the cows and the harvests of the Indian peasants by force so many times. By all means, the similar incidents were recorded in the United Nations library.
The conflict between the two nations was actually started on the issue in 1963. The first armed conflict started on 7th October, 1964. On that day, Pakistani soldiers threatened the Indian farmers verbally, ‘not to till in the Muhuri River island’. But, when the Indian peasants didn’t pay any heed to it and continued their agricultural works on their fields at that time the Pakistani soldiers threatened to shoot them if the Indian farmers didn’t stop their agricultural works immediately. Seeing that, the Indian farmers got frightened and left the place immediately. But, on 9th October, 1964, when a few Indian farmers went the place to collect their agricultural equipments from their agricultural field, the EPR soldiers fired several rounds upon them, which was the first firing incident of the Muhuri river dispute.
After that, since 3rd May, 1965, the soldiers of the EPR had been hassling the Indian civilians on various occasions and threatened them due to use of the Muhuri River-island. On 10th May, 1965, around morning 08:20am, the EPR soldiers started unprovoked firing towards Indian side, which ultimately continued up to 10:05am.
On 16th May, 1965, EPR jawans began unprovoked firing and spent more than 4,000 rounds towards the town, Belonia, which was continued every now and then. Indian International Border Police Force (IIBPF) had returned fire towards East Pakistan (of Pakistan) in self defense. Consequently, around six Pakistani EPR personnel were believed to be killed, while another three jawan were wounded.
In effect, Pakistan used its strength to stop work on the Indian embankment, which was built in 1962, on the bank of the river to save the Belonia town from the clutches of heavy erosion of the above river. Similarly, after the Liberation War, 1971, Bangladesh also made a similar dam on their side for similar reasons between 1982 to 1984. This is around 6 kilometres in total, but only about 3.00-kilometres along the international boundary between the two states. The logic of Bangladesh Government was that Indian spurs (which is 9.566 kilometres but covered the international boundary between the two states only around 8.09 kilometres caused heavy siltation and erosion and flood affected their surrounding village areas, while naked truth or motive was totally different. Bangladesh truly made the dam to divert the river current towards India, which directly affected the Belonia town by heavy land-erosions and high floods that caused human lives, habitations, agricultural fields, et cetera.”
However, “These facts and figures of the Muhuri River dam (which I have given) are true and based on our records, but it is also a fact that Bangladesh perhaps had made the dam to divert the river current towards India, which directly affected the Belonia town by heavy land-erosions and high floods that caused human lives, habitations, agricultural fields, et cetera, which is their ultimate motto,” charged Sajal Debnath, Junior Engineer of Water Resource Department of Public Works Department, Government of Tripura State, India of Belonia Town.
The people’s view from Bangladesh
On the other side, the local peoples of the international boundary of Bangladesh side emphasized, “Heavy siltation and erosion took place in the years – 1956, 1960, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1979, 1983, which changed the course of the river and as a result of this, the IBPs demarcating the international boundary between the two nations were washed away. This is why there is not a single IBP in these particular disputed patches, between IBPN-1397 to IBPN-1400, since 1965 and these white flags are working as IBP, which can be seen easily from the BSFI IBWP. The white flags are placed on the ground, which is also marked as a ‘Zero-line’ area between the two neighbouring countries.”
The people’s view from India
Local residents on the Indian side claimed, “There is no existence of IBPs and since then it is disputed and politics are going on this issue between both sides. Because, actually, during the military regime (27th October, 1958 to 25th March, 1969) of Ayub Khan of (both East Pakistan and West Pakistan of present Pakistan) Pakistan, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistani Army or the first Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan, Pakistani Mujahid Bahini-PMB (Pakistan Fighter Force) after received the direct instigations of East Pakistan Rifle Force (EPRF) stole the Indian crops, domestic animals and other house-hold materials from the residents of International Border Town (IBT), Belonia.
“They also kidnapped, brutally tortured and killed the Indian peasants as well as the local public of the IBT. Then, the PMB illegally cut the forest and forest producers’ materials and had them taken away forcibly. The PMB members didn’t stop their activists, they even first uprooted the IBPs at night, which were made and fixed during the British Raj, in between the international border and then fixed once again inside Indian Territory, while few of them took away to obliterate the actual international border line between the two states. The non stop horrible tortures of Auyb Khan took place on the inhabitants of this Belonia town area in the years – 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965.
The Army view from India
“When on 8th April, 1965 and later full-fledgedly on 5th August, 1965, the first India-Pakistan War was started, in Indian Western Sector, Pakistan (West Pakistan) launched a relentless battle, while at the same time, to beleaguer India, Pakistan (East Pakistan) also began a severe clash in Indian Eastern Sector (particularly, in Muhuri river sector) in various ways. On 29th May, 1965, 23rd June, 1965 and 30th June, 1965, the EPR soldiers started unprovoked firing on the Indian laobourers, who were working on the Muhuri river dykes. The Pakistani soldiers also created similar situations on the Indo-East Pakistan international boundary sector on 24th July, 1965 and 30th July, 1965, respectively,” revealed Indian Army records.
The UN view from India
“Again to pester India, Pakistan began a fight in the Indo-East Pakistan international boundary sector, on 6th August, 1965. On that day, a patrolling group of EPR soldiers dressed in civilian clothes and violated the Indian territory and indiscriminately unprovoked, fired towards Indian villagers unnecessarily, who were working at Radhanagar village (presently under Rajnagar Block of Belonia Sub-division in South Tripura district of Indian State, Tripura) situated in between IBPN-2107/7-s to IBPN-2107/12-s. As a result of that, two Indian civilian workers were seriously wounded. IIBPF rushed to the spot and before rescued the Indian workers, the personnel of the Indian force returned fired towards the patrolling group of EPR jawans in self defense. As a result of this, two EPR jawan were injured. But, at the end of the firing, the soldiers of the Indian force collected few arms and ammunitions with clothing utensils and three berets, cap-badges and et cetera of EPR soldiers and returned,” according to the UN library records.
What the farmers saw
“Like other days, in the first week of November, 1965, myself, Sankar Das (22-years-old inhabitant of Ward-1 of Belonia town) with other neighbourers (Sukhen Das, Durgashankar Shome, Madan Dey and others) were working in our agricultural field as usual. Suddenly, around 14:30-pm, two EPR jawans came near the Muhuri river dam, called us and warned severely that not to carry out our cultivation works in our agricultural fields, because the land was disputed and belongs to East Pakistan of Pakistan. But, at that time, we didn’t pay any heed to their words and continued our works to sow the saplings of sugarcanes.
“After some time, about 16:10-pm, the EPR soldiers without any kind of provocation fired towards us indiscriminately. Seeing this, some of us laid down on the field immediately, but after one hour, when we saw the firing of EPR soldiers were continuing or didn’t stop, some of us tried to flee. One of us, Sankar Das, was directly hit by a bullet from EPR jawans on his forehead and the other one, Madan Das, got a bullet injury on his ear.
“Sankar Das fell down on the ground, but we took him to the Belonia Sub-divisional Hospital by rickshaw. The doctor referred him to the Gobind Ballav Pant Hospital at Agartala, the capital of Eastern Indian State, Tripura. Unfortunately, after around 6 to 7 days, he died, while injured Madan Das was released after he received medical treatment, when he came around. The people of Belonia became furious about the East Pakistan regime, because of their evil handiwork by EPR soldiers and as a mark of protest, the people and Krishak Sabha, an organistaion of Belonia farmers organized a big mass procession with his dead body, round every nook and corner of the Belonia town and its adjoining Indo-Bangla international boundary areas.
“On that day, there were several rounds of firing between the two neighbouring states, by the soldiers. On behalf of India – Indian Bihar (State) Military Police Force (IBMPF, which was one of the part of Indian Army and deployed in Indian eastern international border with the then East Pakistan of Pakistan in the year-1965), was fighting with jawans of EPR. That day was horrible and painful before us. After that day incident, so many times that kind of firing (whether small or big) incidents happened in this particular Muhuri River island areas. However, today, except me, most of our friends-cum-neighbourers that I revealed earlier had died, thanks to almighty god…,” recounted one of the eyewitness on that day firing incident of Muhuri River Char-land, Sankar Chakraborty, who is now 58-years-old and the resident of earlier Das Para, renamed and presently known as Ramthakur Para of Sub-division head-quarter town, Belonia (which has now become a full fledged district of Tripura State on 21st January, 2012).
Krishak Sabha, Belonia farmers organization
Supporting these facts, Naresh Das, the Vice President of Krishak Sabha, a Belonia farmers organization related, “Whatever our next door neighbour-cum-friend Shankar Chakraborty said is 100 percent true. On that day, our beloved farmer friend, Sankar Das was killed by EPR firing, when he was farming on his Muhuri River farmland areas with us, like other days, and that was the first incident of a death caused by the EPR soldiers on Muhuri River firing related case.”
The conflict between the two nations didn’t stop here, it was further escalated, when (according to the reports) the Government of Pakistan made another new allegation or angle and blamed, “India is aiming to extract water from Muhuri river for agricultural (specially, irrigation purposes) projects in return of tenacity the erosion dilemma in our East Pakistan part of this international bordering river. Not only is that India made dam to take advantage from the security point of view also, which has threatened us.”
Dainik Jagoran, Belonia newspaper report
“Under the leadership as well as the support of Sub-divisional District Magistrate or Sub-divisional Deputy Magistrate (SDM) or Sub-divisional Deputy Collector or Sub-divisional District Collector (SDC) Sachhidananda Banerjee, on 12th November, 1965, a foot-march was organised on the river island areas to protest against unprovoked firing by Pakistani soldiers on Indian farmers, where more than 10 to 15 local peoples joined in this protest march. Seeing this, the EPR soldiers verbally abused and threatened them but didn’t fire. But, on 1st December, 1965 and the 13th December, 1965, EPR jawans again unprovoked fired towards Indian side,” claimed the local newspaper, Dainik Jagoran of Belonia.
“Although, in this connection, to diminish fight with each other unnecessarily and reduce tensions, sector commanders of both sides met each other at Belonia Dak-bungalow on 13th February, 1966; but in vain, it was futile, when on 24th November, 1966, Pakistan again fired towards the Belonia town without any cause. But, this time Indian soldiers returned fire. In this context, both sides arranged a flag meeting on 1st December, 1966, but in that meeting no solution came out. Though, on 13th December, 1966, Pakistan soldiers again fired hundreds and hundreds of rounds towards Indian IBT, Belonia from evening to next day early morning. Most important things were that earlier the Pakistani soldiers targeted the Muhuri River island and Kalinagar areas of the town but, this time they had targeted the Giridhari-tilla areas of the IBT, Belonia. As a result of this, a overhead water tank of Belonia Dak-bungalow was badly hit and damaged by the Pakistani bullets, which was published in various newspapers (like Jugantor, Amrita Bazar Patrika, Ananda Bazar Patrika, etcetera) of Indian West Bengal State,” stated retired teacher-cum-writer, Haribhushan Pal.
The incidents did not stop here; it continued during 1967 and 1968 in the Muhuri River Char areas continuously. Indeed, in 1968, two cattle were killed by bullet fire by EPR soldiers again, when Indian farmers of Belonia town had gone for cultivation on that Muhuri river island with their cattle.
Meanwhile, the ‘Liberation Movement’ was started in East Pakistan. Pakistan concentrated their entire focus into the law and order situations inside their (East Pakistan) country as well as the India-East Pakistan international boundary areas. But, it became useless, and with the help of Indian Army ultimately East Pakistan lost the battle with India and Bangladesh got independence on 16th December, 1971.
After the Liberation War, 1971, interestingly in the context of Muhuri River Char-land, similar allegations (that India is planning to take out water from Muhuri river for agricultural purposes, specially, irrigation projects in return of tenacity the erosion dilemma in our Bangladesh side of this international bordering river. Not only that India builds dams to take advantage from the security point of view also, which has threatened us) were once again raised by the Bangladesh Government.
Surprisingly, the newly made nation – Bangladesh, which achieved her independence with the extensive support of India, put a bar on the Indian dam projects or construction of spurs on the bank of the Muhuri river. Subsequently, when it created a bitter relation between the two nations at that time socio-political scientists advised both sides that the two nations must sit together, discuss the matter seriously and decide to solve the problem as per deed Indira-Muijib Agreement, 16th May, 1974.
Ultimately, Bangladesh preferred the same path that East Pakistan took earlier. After the Indira-Mujib Treaty of 1974, the Bangladesh Government once again tried to start the international boundary crisis between the two nations in a new way. Perhaps with the provocation and dominance (of a section of general peoples, socio-political observers, bureaucrats, forces and officials in their nation, Bangladesh, who not only like Pakistan but also believe in radicalism) of earlier West Pakistan (presently, Pakistan).
Astonishingly, Bangladesh immediately reacted on the issue, informed and warned India, “If India did this (made a ‘long spur’ on the bank of the river, Muhuri, except the portion of international border areas), then it would be a gross violation of Indira-Mujib Treaty of 1974, which in course of time or later ultimately became a ‘bone of contention’ between the two states.”
“Afterward, a joint river commission meeting of both neighbouring countries was held, where it had been decided that neither of the nations could build or repair (long) spur or embankment on the river,” according to one of the activists of Indian national political party – Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
But Bangladesh never stopped blaming India. The Government of Bangladesh claimed, “There was a massive and advanced dam (about 4-kilometres upstream from the estuary for irrigation use and around 20 vent control-device has also been made because of control the influx of saline water during the high flood situation along with the dam) built by India in Bonkar-ghat area (near IBPN-2159/3-S) of the Sub-division headquarters of Belonia Town (Indian side) and as a result of this, this became a threat to Bangladesh from the security and environmental points of view. Thus, though during monsoon, the flood water of the river couldn’t affect much disaster on the Indian side but it created havoc in the Bangladesh side.
“Notwithstanding that in future and today still, this river has swallowed up a vast area of our Feni district and created huge sand made islands above the international boundary. Result : Indian gains enormous land areas in the international border (Indian portion). And for this reason, it has become one of the chief causes of dispute between the two nations in connection with the international border.”
The Government of India at that time totally declared it null and void and replied, “It was just a dyke to save the town Belonia from the clutches/hands of massive erosion and nothing else. Even, it had no connection from security point of view.”
When the two nations were busy with this burning issue, at that time, experts and observers stated, “In point of fact, the topography also makes huge troubles in a few sectors in the international boundary. For example, the Belonia Sub-division is one of them, which has become a frequent flash-point between the two sides. Reason : the Muhuri river always keeps changing its own course, which ultimately makes vast river-islands that both countries claimed from time-to-time, which ultimately leads to international boundary conflicts or repeated flash-points between the two states.”
This part of the Muhuri river (which is also navigable throughout the seasons by petite Naouka (boats) that carry 3 to 4 tonnes burden (in rainy season) and around 1 to 2 tonnes burden (in spring season or dry season) up to various places of adjoining Chittagong district), has become a ‘line of contention’ of both nations. Though, after the year, 2000, the peoples of both sides cross and re-crossed the International Riverine Border (IRB) of International Border River (IBR) – Muhuri on foot, with their cattle, vegetables and other day-to-day useable utensils. Indeed, the international boundary of the two states as per Indira-Mujib agreement is defined as the mid of the river. However, prior to 1975, the Government of India made an impervious ‘Spur’ (Bangladesh called it a ‘Dam’ or ‘Embankment’) on the river, which has 150 to 200 metres (according to the local people) width to save the Belonia town from the erosion caused by the river.
During rainy season, when river flows from the upper stretch (Lusai Hills of Tripura) to the lower stretch (Feni district) and lastly falls into the BOBS, it creates massive erosion and this in turn creates every now and then great disasters for the peoples of the two nations, whose peoples reside on the bank of the river. For this reason, when Government of India took a decision to make a spur on the Indian side to check the erosion and save Belonia town, at that time the then Government of Pakistan (that is, erstwhile East Pakistan) put an objection to it.
“India has her control over a few portions of Char (River Islands), which have formed due to heavy sedimentation of the lower course of the river (that falls into this particular international border areas), while the other few portions of these islands of the river are in the control of Bangladesh Government.”
The researchers claimed, “The Muhuri river stands as the symbol of peace among the two neighbouring states. Peoples of both sides keep friendly relations with one other and travel in both lands habitually in spite of what the (political and non-political) leaders think. This river plays the role of harmony and becomes the history of aid and amity for the help of the Indian citizens offered during the Bangladesh Liberation War, 1971 (that is, Bangladesh crisis with former East Pakistan of Pakistan State).”
“Look, Muhuri river-island always a sensitive place and issue, whether in past or in present, both side claiming still. The two countries during the regime of East Pakistan and now in the time of Bangladesh always fight with each other. Though, it is now used to do for us, our relations in both sides as usual like earlier, nothing changed. Yes, it is fact that earlier, both sides’ farmers were ready or intended to increase the production of rice of the island and that is why they wanted to sow seed-paddy or to cultivate paddy or to grow their paddy production, but later it had been seen that the wasteland fed by Muhuri river produce various types of vegetables and sugarcanes by the Indian peasants, which is not done now,” disclosed sexagenarian cultivator, Muhammad Amanulla, who resided at the IBV – Nijkalikapur.
The contentious issue remains
Today, this particular contentious issue remains to be demarcated. The nature of the river has made it difficult for the two neighbouring sides to reach agreement in a one point or a pact. But the Indian political observers and the masters denied the facts and believed, “The history of flare-ups between the two neighbouring states took place at this particular point always over the issue of a ‘strip of land rising out of the bed of the river and its possession’, which showed that it had been dictated by the internal politics of Bangladesh that created by the country’s (opportunist) political parties and their political masters.
Because the records showed that whenever Bangladesh goes through a massive crisis, especially political, social, economic, religious fundamental or other internal, at that time the tension, turmoil and even clash have been intensified in the particular disputed areas of the international boundary.”
However, in these matters, Indian experts conceded, “The above fact is cent percent true, if anyone goes through the history of these particular disputed areas. It can be mentioned here that earlier several clashes occurred between the two states and both nations claimed ownership of this river island, which provoked gunfire in the years between 1964, 1965, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999.”
History of Military Coups
According to the records of the Home Ministry, Government of India, “In the year 1975, in Bangladesh, there was a radical breakout, which occurred in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka on 7th November, 1975, after 15th August, 1975, the father of nation of Bangladesh, popularly known as – Bango Bandhu (Friend of Bengal), Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman, with his children (except daughters – Sheikh Hasina Wazed and her sister, Sheikh Rehana, who were on a goodwill tour or visiting at that time in Europe continent [specially at the capital of former West Germany State, Bonn], with Hasina’s husband, Late M. A. Wazed Mianh, who was a nuclear scientist-cum-researcher at a laboratory), were virtually assassinated by Bangladesh Military coup, led by Major General Khaled Mosharraf and his associates.
“Later, after overthrowing the government, imposed Martial Law (that is, Military dominated civilian regime). On 3rd November, 1975, though, he was also himself killed in a counter military coup just after 4 days later – 7th November, 1975, which installed General Zia-ur-Rahaman of Bangladesh Army in power) after 18-months of the ‘Agreement’ signed between the then PMI, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh (PMB), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 16th May, 1974.”
Professor of University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Gyasuddin Molla wrote, “After that the constitutional arrangement of totalitarian control was soon replaced by an army coup spearheaded by a few dissatisfied army officers of Bangladesh. Subsequently a series of military coups happened in Bangladesh. On 3rd November, 1975, the second army coup happened, while the third military coup was on 7th November, 1975. Though the second military coup occurred with the help of a cross-section of pro-former United States of Soviet Russia (Russia) activists but the third one designed by the pro-China activists, who practically instigated soldiers to revolt against the leaders of second coup to free the nation from the domination of Indo-Russia axis.”
He further mentioned in his articles, “The fighters at Dhaka cantonment at the capital Dhaka most of whom were radicalised during the War of Liberation, 1971 and afterward, became affiliated to Biplobi Gono Bahini (Revolutionary People’s Army) – the military front of pro-Chinese political party Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) revolted and killed Brigadier (who soon after Major General) Khaled Musaraff and his associates, and established domination of the ‘nationalist’ forces under the leadership of Major General Zia-ur-Rahman.
“The radicalized armed forces in Bangladesh became very much prone to state power and they attempted at least 19 counter coups during the regime of Zia-ur-Rahman at seizure of power since the killing of Sheikh Mujibar Rahaman. The coup saga didn’t stop here, it further started politicised army officers prompted some rebel officers to stage a failed coup to seize political power on 30th May, 1981, which led to the assassination of military President Zia-ur-Rahman. At that time, the military coup was put down and the rebel officers were killed by a counter move, but again it began on 24th March, 1982, when General Hussain Muhammad Ershad took over in a bloodless military coup and forced the country’s president – Abdus Sattar to quit and hand over power at gunpoint.”
In 1975 particularly, and during the years 1975 to 1982, the political situation in Bangladesh worsened. Therefore, to divert the issue inside Bangladesh, BGB after the instruction of Bangladesh Government, frequently opened fired upon the Indian peasants, who were working in their around 8-hectares land of Muhuri River Island.
Later, to sort out the vexed problem, talks between the two nations were held on 11th November, 1976. The officers and the representatives of both side frontier forces (BDR & BSFI) talked at district headquarter Comilla of Bangladesh.
Unfortunately no positive solutions came out from this first round of talks. Both sides blamed each other unnecessarily.
Specially, Bangladesh accused India that India constructed 9 spurs for deflecting the course of the river, which allegations India had strongly objected and refuted. In this connection, once again, on 19th November, 1976, a second round of talks was held at the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. But in vain, on 20th November, 1976, after the International Joint Rivers Commission (IJRC) – India Bangladesh International Joint Rivers Commission (IBIJRC) at Dhaka, a committee was formed for the river, which will look after everything of the Muhuri River Island related issues.
The issue didn’t stop here; once again it worsened, when BDR again fired upon the Indian villagers of Muhuri River Char-land on 22nd November, 1976 at around 07.20 am. The vehement exercise of the Bangladesh Defence Force (BDF) personnel made the situation more complicated.
Again to neutralize the situation, around six members of the Bangladesh delegation came to India on 12th December, 1976 to discuss this burning issue. But, once again, the talks failed to come to a conclusion from both sides. However, the Bangladesh surprisingly asked India and demanded that entire the Muhuri River Island areas should be made a ‘No Man’s Land’ and there should be provision for both sides joint patrolling on the Indian side by the BSFI and BDR, which India saw an indirect means or method or approach of inducing a alteration of the 1974 pact. Seeing that, India later ultimately rejected the Bangladeshi proposal, but did a small pact that both sides agreed to maintain normalcy of that char-land area.
In 1976, Bangladesh was passing through a serious socio-political crisis. Martial Law was controlling the state, and as a result, the Bangladesh Military banned all trade union parties and the people were unable to protest.
“Look, Muhurir Char-land, the place is significantly known as Belonia in Bangladesh too, like Indian side. With the course of time, the river diverged about one kilometer from the old position, thereby rise of Muhurir Island’ took place. It occurred only as Indian Government moved-away the stream of water by making numbers of spurs upstream of the river. Though, little bit, the situation was calm and quiet until 1978, but just after, in 1978, the Indian peoples began illegally claiming the land of islands as their own land. Since then, there were several confrontations of exchanging fire for 8 hours for around 53 days,” BDR officials said.
In February, 1977, there was a flag meeting held between the Wing Commander of BDR and Commandant of BSFI of the two nations, where wing commander of BDR again raised a strong objection to the cultivation of the Muhuri river char-land by the Indian farmers, disputing the existing course of the river as boundary and requested BSFI to prevent Indian nationals from the governments of both the countries and maintain the boundary as per the Indo-Bangla pact-1974. And there were no disputed areas in this particular sector and if there were claims and counter claims, they could at best be treated as adverse possessions.
In June, 1978, in a meeting between the Deputy Commissioner of Noakhali and District magistrate of South Tripura, the same issue of cultivation of char-land was raised by the DC Noakhali requesting the Indian side not use char-land by Indian nationals since an appropriate authorization of both governments had not demarcated the concerned area. In reply, District Magistrate of South Tripura pointed out that the agreement between the governments of the two countries regarding the demarcation clearly indicated the border in Muhuri river should be along the mid stream of the river at the clear that the char being on our side of the river, it is clear that the char is under Indian territory though, demarcation was not done.
The District Magistrate of South Tripura made it clear that as the land was under possession of Indian Jotedar and they had also been paying land revenue, they could not be refrained from cultivating their own land.
Secretary-level talks between the two countries were held in New Delhi from 13th December, 1979 to 15th December, 1979, and an agreement relating to the Muhuri river land between BSFI and BDR was set out:
a) These agreements will remain in force till the end of Muhuri river of march, 1980.
b) No harvesting or cultivation will be permitted on the abovementioned char-land of the river between IBPN-2159/3-s to 2159/48-s. Limited access will, however be permitted for customary usage be both sides but not for cultivation or grazing,
c) A telephone line may be installed between the local Commanders of BSFI (Belonia IBOP) and the BDR (Nizkalikapur IBOP),
d) If there is any instruction, individual or collective, that is, their local commander will get in touch immediately with his opposite number. Arrangement for a flag meeting and the settle the matter for this removal,
e) Any construction made within 150-yards (that is, 137-metres) of the international border line and any defence construction on made after 1st September, 1979 should be demolished by both sides by 15th January, 1980,
f) works within the preview of the JRC and boundary demarcation will be permitted,
g) Such International Observation Post (IOP)s as many necessary may be erected by the BSFI and the BDR by mutual consultation,
h) Joint inspection, as frequently as considered necessary by representative of the BDR and the BSFI should be conducted to ensure the implementation of these agreements,
i) BSFI and the BDR are authorized to prevent any violation. It was agreed that both sides should be responsible for enforcing these arrangements. Each force will provide assistance to the other to remove nationals of the other, who may be found in violation of the arrangements and
j) willing and prompt co-operation for the above purpose should be extended by the BSFI and BDR to each other. Both will otherwise restrain and desist from firing.
This agreement was not signed by the Director Generals of both sides, but it remained a verbal and mutual discussion. It didn’t last long, according to the records, which showed that once again, BDR fired on Indian peasants, who were working on the char-land, without any reason, on 1st November, 1979, at about 16:15 pm.
It was repeated by Bangladesh on 12th November, 1979, when the first major incident of firing took place between the two states. Meanwhile, in the Indian Parliament, the then Indian Minister of Agriculture & Irrigation, Brahma Prakash gave a statement at the house on 20th November, 1979 – ‘Bangladesh fired upon Indian cultivators without any causes,’ just before 21st November, 1979, on which day, a meeting was held at the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, on account of a discussion on the subject of IBIJRC.
To defuse the tension in the international border, a flag meeting was again held between Deputy Inspector General (DIG), BSFI and sector commander level at Sibir Bazar in which no decision could be taken as BDR continued to claim the char-land in their territory. On the day following the flag meeting, Bangladeshi nationals for the first time entered into the char-land with a view to harvest the standing crops and thereby made a claim on char-land. At that time, the Indian para-military frontier force duly warned Bangladeshi nationals to leave char-land forthwith and their failing to do so. BSFI fired two rounds to scare away the illegal Bangladeshi intruders. And since then numerous attempts had been made by Bangladeshi nationals to enter the char-land and to harvest the standing crops.
Regrettably, BDR started war like preparation on their own side by the construction of embankment bunkers and trenches. The BDR authorities also evacuated families of the civil officials, who were at the ICP and a black out was observed on the Bangladesh side, which is also called Belonia. On 30th November, 1979, when the Indian labourers or workers were engaged repairing the Indian embankment, immediately at that time, the Subadar (Senior Warrant Officer) of BDR raised a strong objection to the work and asked the Indian workers to stop the work immediately. When the Indian workers ignored the order and did not stop their work, BDR fired on the Indian workers, towards the Indian side indiscriminately. Firing continued for four hours.
Without any reason, firing incidents by the BDR soldiers again occurred on 6th December, 1979. To end this crisis, both sides arranged a meeting at the International Border Check Post (IBCP) at Belonia, where the Deputy Collector or Deputy Commissioner (DC) of South Tripura District of Tripura State of India and the DC of Noakhali district of Bangladesh attended and discussed the issue. Ultimately no proper solutions came out. It is true that at that time, Bangladesh was passing through an extreme political crisis.
This issue escalated on 8th January, 1980, when Bangladesh fired upon Indian cultivators without reason, and in February, 1980, another talk was held at Dhaka at secretary level, but no proper solution came out between the both sides. After the Indian Minister of External Affairs, P. V. Narashima Rao visited Bangladesh on 16th August, 1980 to 18th August, 1980, it was decided that the two nations will met each other in October, 1980.
Between 15th October, 1980 and 16th October, 1980, a high level meeting was also held between the two states in Delhi, the capital of India, on the situation of Muhuri Char-land, including other Indo-Bangla crucial matters. They tried to implement the Indira-Mujib Accord, 1974, to solve the issue amicably. But, during the 2 to 3-days official discussions between the two states at Delhi on October, 1980, it was decided that both side maintain status quo until the entire areas of the river island survey would complete and within two years, both the countries would complete the proper demarcation of the international boundary as per the pact.
This was a vain hope, because once again, in 1981, Bangladesh fired upon Indian peasants on char-land areas. It is fact that, when the Indian farmers of Belonia were prevented by the bullets of the BGB from cultivating the strip of land, at that time, Bangladesh was mired in a serious political crisis. As a result of this, the entire socio-political system or situation of Bangladesh became jeopardised. Former military ruler of the Bangladesh – Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad had taken over power after the assassination of his predecessor Lieutenant General Zia-ur-Rahaman by military coup on 30th May, 1981 and was sworn-in as president of Bangladesh on 11th December, 1983.
After a number of meetings, from flag level, battalion or company commander level, and secretary level, the situation on Muhuri river island was unchanged.
On 31st July, 1984, at battalion commander level, Major Muhammad Mustafa Ahmed, commanding officer, 27-Battalion of BDR agreed that the above matter may be jointly surveyed by the local representative of water development board of Bangladesh and minor irrigation and flood control department of Indian Tripura State Government. It was also agreed that the matter doesn’t merit in nature within the competency of the local officials of the both sides.
Accordingly, a meeting of the local committee of International Joint River Commission (IJRC) was held at Belonia in August, 1984, between chief engineer of Minor Irrigation & Flood Control (MIFC), Tripura State and executive engineer (Bangladesh Water Development division), Noakhali district, where they agreed to cut a drainage channel along their land up to Kata-Muhuri (which is a rivulet of Muhuri river and comes from Parshuram [Bangladesh] and flows toward Amzadnagar [India] and after touches the area Amzadnagar, this particular rivulet again enters into Bangladesh) to avoid drainage problems in their country.
Bangladesh further agreed on this occasion, to take up the matter with their higher authorities so that BDR do not create problems, when work is executed on the Indian side.
India-Bangladesh Relationship Nosedives
In 1985, when the relationship between the two neighbouring states was at an all time low, firing between two nations started again, in connection with cultivation at Muhuri char-land as well as the revetment work on the Indian embankment. At that time, heavy mortar shells were used during the clash, which continued for more than 72hours, around the clock.
At that time, H. M. Ershad repeatedly used the char-land disputes to gain political leverage, stirring up anti-India sentiment, to gain an advantage in Local Government District Elections.
“On 9th April, 1986, unprovoked firing started in this Muhuri River Char area. Although there was a flag meeting held between the two nations, it was ineffective. Then, on 13th April, 1986, when the Indian labourers were making the spur on the disputed Muhuri River Char Land (MRCL) area, in the presence of the Tripura State chief secretary, Dr. Animesh Roy (who was actually supervising the construction of the spur), BDR soldiers fired 4 to 5 rounds towards (Indian) brick loaded truck in the construction area. Seeing this, the chief secretary of Tripura stopped the work. In the evening, a flag meeting was arranged, but no proper solution came out from the discussion of both sides,” asserted one of the Indian Tripura State Police Force (ITSPF) officials.
As in the mid-eighties (1986), the Bangladesh Parliamentary Election (General Election, held on 7th May, 1986) as well as the Presidential Election (15th October, 1986), were held in Bangladesh. Due to these elections, socio-political instability, such as several deaths, uncountable injuries, kidnapping, killing and tortures occurred in the state.
For instance : (between 30th April, 1986 to 1st May, 1986), there were around 54,500 to 65,000, (according to various international organizations) Bangladeshi Chakma Tribe refugees came from or entered into Indian territory from Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh (specially, Chittagong, Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati districts of Bangladesh) after the conflicts between ethnic Chakma Tribe and the Bengali speaking Muslim peoples, who were even, attacked, tortured and by force push them into India after grabbing their lands and landed properties. The Government of India was pressuring the Government of Bangladesh, led by General H. M. Ershad, to solve the refugee problem or crisis, as soon as possible, which as a result of this, Belonia witnessed the most severe exchange of firing between the two border guards of the two nations up to that point.
On 4th April, 1988, at Agartala, the meeting was held between IG BSFI (in-charge of Indian Tripura and Mizoram States and Cachar district of Assam State) and the BDR DG, where DIG BSFI of South Tripura district raised various issues of Muhuri river char-land and the illegal activities of the Bangladeshi nationals as well as the role of BDR. The BSFI DIG explained the ground situation and the position of the char-land areas to the Deputy Director General (DDG) BDR. During the meeting DG BDR assured that a peaceful atmosphere would be maintained in Muhuri char area and he further assured that no Bangladeshi nationals and the criminals will be permitted to commit any crime such as stealing or removing bricks crates from Muhuri river.
However, on 14th July, 1989, while Indian nationals were ploughing in the char-land, suddenly a BDR patrol party from across the river verbally protested and asked the Indian farmers to leave the land immediately.
On 17th August, 1989, at about 09:30-hours, while a BSFI patrol party was on routine patrolling duty at the char-land area, a BDR patrol party used provocative language to protest. They warned the BSFI not to patrol on the controversial place at all.
BDR objected to even cultivation works of Indian farmers and said they should leave the place immediately. After that, both sides held a company commander level flag meeting. Soon after, on 19th August, 1989, the BSFI company commander strongly protested against the illegal trespassing and attempt to wrest stones and bricks from Muhuri river and its adjoining areas by Bangladeshi nationals and use of provocative language by BDR soldiers during patrols. The BDR company commander assured him that he would instruct Bangladeshi nationals not to enter into Indian territory and also apologized for the action of his patrol party.
Only a few days later, between 22nd August, 1989 to 25th August, 1989, at Guwahati, the capital of Indian State, Assam, the talks between IG (in-charge of Indian Tripura and Mizoram States and Cachar district of Assam State) BSFI and DDG BDR was held, where IG BSFI mentioned and raised the point regarding obstruction made by BDR during harvesting by Indian peasants on their own Indian side, at that time DDG of BDR assured that he would issue suitable instructions to his field commander on the subject to maintain the status quo.
A commandant level flag meeting was held on 31st August, 1989, againbetween, between 55-BN of BSFI Commandant and the 28 BN of BDR, where BSFI clearly said that Indian cultivators get full right to cultivate their lands on Indian side of Muhuri river.
On 28th May, 1991, the BDR Company commandant lodged a protest stating Muhuri river char-land shouldn’t be cultivated and not to graze cattle by the Indian peoples. The Company Commander of Belonia replied that as per the pact of 1974, between the two nations, it had been clearly decided that the mid stream of the river was considered the working international boundary. The char-lands, which were being cultivated by the Indian farmers, fell well inside Indian territory and the Indian nationals had full right to harvest or cultivate their char-land and grazing of their cattle.
A few days later on 1st June, 1991, a commandant level flag meeting was held between 8BN of BSFI and the 28BN of BDR, commandant BSFI raised point regarding the objection of cultivation and grazing cattle in above river char-land areas being raised by BDR. BDR commander had expressed that a certain portion of Muhuri river char-land was disputed and grazing of cattle and cultivation should not be allowed or permitted as per secretary level talks between the two nations in Delhi, which had been held with-effective-from (w.e.f.) 13th December, 1979 to 15th December, 1979.
Bangladeshi Nationals Illegally Enter Muhuri Char-land
On 27th and 28th July, 1991, Bangladeshi nationals illegally entered into Muhuri char-land areas on the Indian side and destroyed the bamboo fence constructed by Indian cultivators around their paddy fields in the Muhuri river char-land areas. Immediately, the BSFI Company Commander of Belonia lodged a strong protest against the nefarious activities of Bangladeshi nationals.
A few days later, on 3rd August, 1991, a Company Commander level flag meeting was held, where the BDR Company Commander raised points regarding grazing of cattle, cultivation, erection of a Watch Tower and bamboo fencing around the paddy field in the river char-land areas, by Indian nationals. The BSFI replied that Muhuri char-land is an integral part of India and the fence and tower had been erected to protect the crops from grazing by Bangladeshi cattle and nothing else.
On 3rd January, 1992, a joint survey team from India and Bangladesh inspected the Muhuri river char-land areas and held a discussion at Belonia Dak Bunglow of Belonia town, in South Tripura district. But the joint inspection team never submitted a ‘copy of survey of Muhuri river char-land’ to the BSFI.
Again the activity of cultivation was started w.e.f. 22nd November, 1993, and when a large number of Indian cultivators with the help of tractors and power-tillers cultivated their lands, at that time, BDR Company Commander asked BSFI Company Commander to stop the cultivation works and remove the tractors and power-tillers from the char-land areas immediately. But, the BSFI didn’t pay any heed to it and refuted the BDR’s so-called warning and told the Indian nationals to continue their as usual cultivation works in their paddy fields up to the international working boundary line (the mid-stream of Muhuri river). The Indian farmers continued their cultivation works and there was no incident.
The incidence of firing between the two nations over this matter did not stop. It started again on 26th November, 1993, at 07:00-am. The sudden unprovoked firing by the BDR Sepoy (personnel) on Muhuri river char-land at the Indian farmers, began after the farmers had been working on their cultivable lands since 06:30-am, using three power-tillers. The BDR announced on loud speakers to stop the cultivation work immediately, but the Indian cultivators were undeterred and did not pay attention to the activities of the BDR soldiers. The BDR fired intermittently, not only on Indian farmers, using small arms Light Machine Guns, but also Heavy Machine Guns. They also fired on Indian BSFI troops at IBOP, Belonia. As a result, one Indian cultivator and a school child were severely injured.
The intermittent firing by BDR continued until 28th November, 1993, and on that day, an Indian farmer’s power-tiller was damaged due to firing from BDR soldiers. New defences, including bunkers and trenches were created along the Muhuri river bund. A number of protest notes were lodged and commandant level flag meetings and talks were also held on 29th November, 1993 from 12:30-hours to 16:30-hours, but unfortunately the matter was not solved and the stalemate continued.
The following day, the Indian Tripura State Revenue Minister, Samar Chowdhury visited Dak Bunglow in Belonia town and was briefed by the DIG BSFI Tripura (South Tripura District) in detail, about the sequence of events and actions of BSFI and convened his decision that no Indian cultivation works to be done till the populaces of Bangladesh side (who had vacated their respective IBV, Nijkalikapur), returned. After that, no firing incidents occurred.
However, on 5th December, 1993, again BDR soldiers intermittently fired, using light and heavy machine guns, and other automatic rifles, towards the Indian side of Muhuri river char-land. – Specifically around 13:00-hours, 13:15-hours, 13:30-hours and 13:45-hours. Indian BSFI again lodged a strong protest to the Commanding officer of 7 Rifles BN of BDR. The Indian farmers didn’t stop their cultivation works in the Muhuri char-land areas.
Seeing this, on their side, BDR soldiers again fortified their defences by building trenches and bunkers along the embankment of the Muhuri river. They also made over head protection of one of the bunkers within around 75-yards of mid-stream of the river, opposite to the char-land of the Indian side. A strong protest was lodged at Company Commander level and also at Battalion Commander level by the BSFI. The protest was to no avail, and BDR started firing on 15th December, 1993, towards Indian cultivators, without no provocation. Later BDR claimed a concocted and fabricated story that they had fired on Indian nationals to cover their protest note that BSFI had fired on their IBOPs – Nijkalikapur and Mazumdarhat. BSFI refuted these allegations.
Indian growers again faced hundreds of bullets from BDR on 7th January, 1994, while cultivating the char-land. This was repeated again by the BDR men two days later, on 9th January, 1994, without any provocation by Indian growers.
DG level talks between the BSFI and the BDR were held in the capital of India, New Delhi over the following week, at which these firing incidents and other Indo-Bangla international border related subjects were discussed. The other issues included repair and maintenance of international boundary pillars, international cross-border movements, international illegal immigration of Bangladeshis into India, international trans-border crimes and repatriation of refugees (specially, the Chakma Tribe from India to Bangladesh).
Immediately after the talks, on 15th January, 1994, suddenly at around 09:55-am, the BDR troops of Nijkalikapur and Mazumdarhat IBOPs fired with light machine guns, heavy machine guns and other automatic weapons, without any provocation. They were aiming towards the Indian BSFI troop deployed at Belonia IBOP, as well as the Indian International Custom Post near IBPN-2160.
As a result of this firing incident, two innocent Indian civilians namely Sajal Deb (son of Shakti Ranjan Deb) and Alok Dutta (son of Ajit Dutta) received severe bullet injuries, and were ultimately admitted to the hospital at Agartala.
Six months later, on 12th July, 1994, when the Indian cultivators were again cultivating their lands near the IBOP at Belonia, the BDR troops at Nijkalikapur IBOP raised an objection on the activities of the farmers and later it was stopped immediately. Later, the issue was discussed at the Sector Commander level flag meeting, held on 25th July, 1994, and it was decided by both sides that no new cultivation will be undertaken and status quo be maintained. Further, during 9th November, 1994 to 12th November, 1994, talks were held between the two nations at Dhaka at the DG level on this subject.
Six months later, on 25th June, 1995, when the Indian workers were busy repairing a spur on the Indian side, as they do every year, the Bangladeshi forces, fired at them, without any justification and it continued to the next day, but this time on Indian planters, who were working in the Muhuri river-island.
“Not only for Hussain Muhammad Ershad and Begum Khaleda Zia, even, for BDR, Muhuri river was in earlier (and even, presently) one of the key issues of any (whether parliamentary or district level) election of Bangladesh. During the time of Bangladesh elections, the posters, banners, placards, etcetera were written in the name of Muhuri river, like in this way – ‘Talpatti Ar Muhurir Char, Bangladesher Buker Panjor’ (that is, Talpatti Island and Muhuri River Island are the ribs of the chest of Bangladesh). Not only that, there were more these kinds of writes up, like Ershad Jodi Vote Chao, Muhurir Char Dakhal Nao, (that is, Ershad, if you want vote then you must take over possession on Muhuri river island) also existed or present in various places of Bangladesh as well as Indo-Bangla international bordering areas of IBT, Belonia,” stated one of the local businessman of Bangladesh Ajoy Sarker, who heard the same from his grand-mother, when he was a student.
The same was true in 1999, at the time of Bangladesh civil elections. Indeed, during the period of the Sheikh Hasian-led Bangladesh Government (23rd June, 1996 to 15th July, 2001), the main opposition political party – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its allied parties – Pan-Islamic religious support based political party, Jamat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JEIB), led by former PM of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia, former president of Bangladesh – Hussain Muhammad Ershad led political party, Jatio Party (JP) and Ameer Allama Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini led Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ), which is also the supporter of Pan Islamic Religious Fundamental Militant Group (PIRFMG) like Taliban, created massive chaos in social, economic and political spheres of Bangladesh. The did this through various numbers of Bandh, Hartal, and blockades, and they boycotted many elections (Bangladesh Parliamentary Election, Local Government Election, etcetera) in Bangladesh, especially between June, 1999 to August/September, 1999.
At that time, Belonia experienced the most unprovoked firing by the BGB, without any cause. The exchange of gunfire started when the cultivators from both the states of the international boundary fought over the islet area on three consecutive days, between 22nd August, 1999 to 24th August, 1999. Indeed, like other sectors of the international border, the gun-battles started, when a few Indian cultivators entered into what Bangladesh calls the disputed area, and started to fence it to save their agricultural products from the clutches of the Bangladeshi thieves. Seeing the fences being erected, the Bangladeshi peasants, armed with spears and meat cleavers, tried to push the Indian farmers back on 22nd August, 1999. When they failed to stop the Indians, the BDR started indiscriminately firing towards the Indian farmers.
The next day, that is, 23rd August, 1999, BDR used machine guns and mortar shells against the Indians. As a result of that, several villagers of both sides had left their houses. Five Indian civilians, including children, and two BSFI soldiers were seriously injured, while on the other side – 13 Bangladeshi nationals and one BGB guard were wounded.
Later, a BDR delegation led by the DG, Major General Azizur Rehman, and the BSFI delegation, led by Inspector General (IG), P. C. Goel (the in-charge of Cachar District sector – Mizoram frontier of Indian States, Tripura-Assam) sat together in a flag meeting at Belonia and agreed to maintain, what they describe as a status quo on the disputed Muhuri river isle, which was subsequently reported to the local journalist.
Although firing incidents had been continuing since the year, 1965 (from time of former East Pakistan period) to later Bangladesh (1999) period, it suddenly stopped after the 24th August, 1999. After 24th August, 1999, neither Bangladesh nor Indian farmers intended/wished-for to plough in the so-called disputed fertile Muhuri river char-land areas, particularly, Indian farmers, who most of the time used the ground.
The political situation in Bangladesh deteriorated in 2001, and on 16th April, when an illegal intrusion of BGB happened at Pyrdiwah (Part-II) village in the East Khashi Hills district of Eastern Indian State, Meghalaya, a maximum high alert was declared.
The situation became too tense in this part of the international boundary as the BGB strengthened or reinforced their position at the IBVs, which lie just on the India-Bangladesh International Border as well as adjoining the river-island areas – Kalikapur (especially at Kalikapur International Border Out Post – IBOP), Nijkalikapur (especially at Nijkalikapur IBOP), Mazumdar and Mazumdar Hat and Paroshuram in Feni District of Bangladesh. Fortunately, the situation remained under control, and a ‘flag-meeting’ was held between the international frontier guards of both nations on 24th April, 2001, and BSFI urged BGB to immediately stop unnecessary hostile perambulation on this particular disputed area.
After the bloody incidents in Pyrdiwah and Boraibari (in Dhubri district of Assam), on 15th July, 2001, the PM of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wazed was forced to hand over power to a caretaker Bangladesh Government – Latifur Rahaman, who was chief advisor of the Bangladesh Government. And later, Bangladesh Parliamentary Election was held on 1st October, 2001.
Therefore it seems to be clear, from all of the reasons discussed here, that whenever a crisis arises in Bangladesh, or there is a political dilemma or the political parties need to whip up anti-Indian sentiment, mostly just before elections, the rhetoric over disputed areas or Muhuri River Islands takes a turn for the worst.
Anti-Indian issues seem to remain a popular agenda in the election periods of Bangladesh. With astute timing and political insight, the political party and their leaders (especially, Begum Khaleda Zia led BNP, General Hussein Muhammad Ershad led BJP, Allama Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini led IOJ and Jamat-e-Islami, etcetera) have exploited the Muhuri River Char-land dispute.
It was also observed that when a general election is close, a fresh flare up is anticipated in the Muhuri River Char-land areas, because, the district headquarter, Feni electoral constituency is only 15-18-kilometres away from Muhuri River Island. This is the constituency of BNP chief Begum Zia, who is the Prime Ministerial candidate who accused Prime Minster of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina of a policy of subservience to India.
Supporting these facts, in 2001, one of the Sub-Divisional officials of South Tripura District, Belonia D. C. Roy revealed and pointed out, “The whole Muhuri River Island was always considered a ‘completely protected area’ during the general election of Bangladesh. At that time, Indian farmers were not allowed to cultivate the land for their safety and security from the bullets of BGB. As the area is the electoral constituency of Begum Khaleda Zia, whose party is always ready to attempt to create some chaos at national and international levels to gain points before the Bangladesh elections or to get mileage among her supporters, including to attract international attention. Therefore, our frontier guard personnel are instructed to exercise self-control in the face of BGB’s provocative or instigative attitudes or behaviours.”
Interestingly, in the context of India Bangladesh International Land Border (ILB) issues, Brigadier General Abdus Salam Chowdhury, NDC, who was in the post of Deputy Director General of former Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), an organisation of Bangladesh Para Military Force (BPMF) and in the post of the commissioned in the East Bengal Regiment (EBR) in November, 1975, blamed and said, “Firstly : It is a forcible occupation by the Indian Forces or you may say that illegal infiltration of the Indians in Muhurir Char of Bangladesh, Secondly : India built a dam or barrage on the river with a view to supply irrigation facilities to Tripura State, as a result, the river changed its course as well as the path from its existing original normal flow, which caused severe damage to the irrigation of Bangladesh because of deficiency of water. Not only that the creation of such huge infrastructures (River Island, locally called – Char) also caused loss of valuable soils of Bangladesh and Thirdly : India clearly violates the rules or norms of the International River Law, which is their designs or tendency of wicked dominance.”
Whatever might be the cause, it was a fact that, “Either due to lack of clarity about the international boundary or not proper demarcation of the international border between the two countries, the disputed international lands and rivers or maritime areas had been a problem since 1947.
As a result of that, especially after 1971, Bangladeshi nationals sometimes entered into Indian territory after crossing the international border by mistake and their percentage is very few (that is, around 20% [percent] to 25% [percent]), while others, involved with illegal migration, trafficking, smuggling, religious fundamental activities, cattle lifting [including anti-social-criminal activities], etcetera, enter into Indian territory either by force or with the evil motives or calculatingly.
“The result is that both classes face the bullets of the BSFI or become the victims of firing by BSFI soldiers. The deaths of Bangladeshi nationals at the hands of BSFI soldiers get regular attention in the Bangladesh media as well as the World Human Rights Commission (WHRC), which augments animosity and hatred towards India. Undeniably, the fact is that in Bangladesh, the anti-BSFI feeling or attitude is so strong, that the issue is continuously raised in each and every bilateral discussion,” emphasized a group of Indian bureaucrats.
The actual ‘point of contention’ between the two states began from the inception of the entire ‘Muhuri River Char-land.’ This area is located at former Sub-division headquarter town – Belonia, in South Tripura District of Eastern Indian State, Tripura. On the Bangladesh side stands Feni district, earlier Comilla Sector of Noakhali district of Bangladesh, all of which is referred to as the Indo-Bangla International Border.
In a nutshell, the disputed area had spread in two different sectors. One – Muhuri river-island and the other one – Tripura and former Noakhali/Comilla (districts) sector, presently Feni and Comilla districts sector of Bangladesh. The core issue or focal point of differences between the two states came about because of the creation of the char area (that is, the portion of so-called – Shashaner Char) having probable area 44.870-acres of land due to shifting of the river mostly towards the side of Bangladesh. It perhaps seen that as stated by the CREMs the then left bank of the river created the above international border. Hence, with the shifting of the river, the whole char area portion should come near to India.
According to the Documents of Protocol to the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters, 16th May, 1974, where it had clearly mentioned in Vide Para – 5 of Article – I that Muhuri River (Belonia) Sector. – The boundary in this area should be demarcated along the mid-stream of the course of Muhuri River at the time of demarcation. This boundary will be a fixed boundary. The two Governments should raise embankments on their respective sides with a view to stabilising the river in its present course and Vide Para – 6 of Article – I that Remaining portion of the Tripura-Noakhali/Comilla Sector. – The demarcation in this sector should be completed on the basis of Chakla-Roshanabad Estate Maps of 1892-1894 and the District Settlement Maps of 1915-1918 for areas not covered by the Chakla-Roshanabad Maps and as per Protocol to the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters, 6th September, 2011, where it had also clearly mentioned in Vide Para – I of Article – 2 – Article 1 Clause 5 of the 1974 Agreement shall be implemented as follows : Muhuri River (Belonia) sector – Boundary in this segment shall be drawn westwards from the existing Boundary Pillar No. 2159/48-S along the agreed line as depicted in the index map prepared jointly till it meets the southern limit of the Burning Ghat as shown in jointly surveyed map of Muhuri river area in 1977-78. Thereafter it shall follow the external limit of the Burning Ghat in South-West direction and then turn northwards along the external limit of the Burning Ghat till it meets the centre of the existing Muhuri River. Thereafter it shall run along the mid stream of the existing Muhuri River up to Boundary Pillar No. 2159/3-S. This boundary shall be the fixed boundary. The two Governments should raise embankments on their respective sides with a view to stabilising the river in its present course as stipulated in the 1974 Agreement. The Parties agree to fencing on ‘zero line’ in this area.”
Albeit, in this matter, still no permanent solution has been settled between the two states. It can be hoped that the core subject will be decided at the highest level of both governments as soon as possible and peace will exist in this India Bangladesh International Riverine Border Muhuri River Island sector permanently, which only time will tell.
61. Livelihoods On Line At Indian Border – BBC News – Subir Bhaumik, Dated 28th June, 2005.
62. Human Cost Of Dhaka-Delhi Row – BBC News – Subir Bhaumik, 5th February, 2003.
63. India Bangladesh Border Clash At Pyrdiwah – Anirban Roy – Hindustan Times, 17th April, 2001.
95. Directorate of Land Records & Survey, Government of West Bengal State, India & Directorate of Land Records & Survey, Government of West Bengal State, India.
96. Newspaper Clips of India, Bangladesh & The Daily Star Newspaper, Bangladesh.
97. Various Seminar Papers of India & Bangladesh.
98. Documents of Protocol to the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters, 16th May, 1974.
99. Documents of Protocol to the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters, 6th September, 2011.
100. Inputs from the journalist Swapan Das & Writer Mans Paul of Tripura State of India.