DHAKA, April 4, (Reuter): Top Indian and Bangladeshi security officials exchanged harsh words today during talks on ending tribal insurgency and repatriation of refugees in Southern Bangladesh, conference sources said.

Mahesh Chandra Misra, Director-general of the Indian Border Security Force, said New Delhi had been “unnecessarily burdened” by the thousands of refugees fleeing a separatist guerrilla war to live in camps in India. ;

The sources told Reuters the remarks drew instant protest from Major General Sufi Ahmad Chaudhary, Chief of the Bangladesh Rifles, who said “These are utterly irresponsible comments from a responsible man”.

They said the exchange took place soon after the two men began their today talks on the war in the Chittagong Hill tracts and the repatriation of refugees who have fled to India.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in 14 years of fighting between government troops and the outlawed “Shanti Bahini” (Peace Force) rebels.

The guerrillas want autonomy of 14,200 sq. km (5,500 sq. miles) of the hill tracts and demand the expulsion of all nontribal settlers who they accuse of stealing their land and destroying their culture.

Dhaka says about 26,000 tribal refugees have crossed into the northeastern Indian state of Tripura. New Delhi says the figure is much larger.

“They would love to return if the reign of terror stopped in the area which was their homeland until they fled”, the sources quoted as saying in support of India’s charge that Bangladeshi troops were torturing refugees.

Chaudhary accused the Indian “side of “concocting a terror story” to prevent tribesmen from retiming, the sources said.

The Bangladesh side also charged that the Indian border forces were still offering sanctuary to the guerrillas, despite their promise not to do so, the sources said. They said the Indian delegation denied the charge and turned the allegation back at Bangladesh.

“We hear of encouragement being given from this side of the border to terrorists who want a. separate state of Tripura”, said an Indian delegate at the meeting.

A Bangladeshi official at the meeting earlier said India had proposed to send a team, including some members of the Indian Parliament, to the Chittagong Hill tracts to check if conditions were suitable for the refugees to return.


Article extracted from this publication >>  April 10, 1987