DHAKA; March 20 (Reuter): More than 900 tribes people who fled to India last year to escape a separatist tribal guerrilla war in Southern Bangl adesh have died of diarrhoea, dysentery and Malaria, a government owned newspaper reported today.

Hundreds of others are close to death after months of near starvation in refugee camps in the Eastern Indian State of Tripura, the Dainik Bangla quoted refugees as saying.

The refugees said physically fit young tribesmen were forced to join the outlawed Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) rebels after training, the newspaper reported.

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister declined to comment on the report. The refugee camps are run by the Indian government.

The Shanti Bahini seek autonomy for the 14,200 sq. km. (5,500 sq. miles) Chittagono Hill tracts area bordering India and Burma.

The newspaper said more than 100 tribesmen had returned to the hill tracts, “escaping eyes” of the Indian Border Security Force. It said rebels were detaining others willing to return.

Foreign Ministry officials in Dhaka said more than 24,000 Bangladeshi tribes people had crossed into Tripura since last May to escape fighting between Shantis and the troops, but India was delaying their repatriation “for unknown reasons”.

Indian officials have said the refugees fear persecution if they go home.

Bangladesh accuses India of giving shelter, training and weapons to the Shanti Bahini, who took up arms in 1975 after the government rejected their demands for autonomy and in expulsion of thousands of nontribal people from the hill tracts. India denies the charge.

More than 1,100 civilians, including many tribesmen suspected of helping the troops, and 200 soldiers have been killed in the fighting, according to the official sources.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 27, 1987