Bangladeshi tribal women walk alongside barbed wire fencing as others sit under makeshift shelters at the Indo Bangladesh fencing area at Karbook, 135km south of Agartala, the capital of northeastern Indian state of Tripura, yesterday.
Some 1,400 Bangladeshi tribal minorities who fled across the Indian border following ethnic strife with majority Muslims have returned to their villages after assurances of protection from the government, officials said yesterday.
Military troopers and members of paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh are guarding the villages to prevent further violence, Khagrachari district administrator Masud Karim said.
The Buddhist and Hindu tribals, who began returning late Sunday, had taken shelter in India’s Tripura state after fleeing from five villages in the Chittagong Hill Tracts at the weekend.
“The tribals entered India after ethnic troubles with the Muslim community. They were stopped near the barbed fencing on the borders where we arranged food and water for them,” Border Security Force officer B S Rawat said.
Rawat said this was the second such incident since July 30, when they had massed near the borders following ethnic trouble.
The tribals, a majority of them from the Buddhist Chakma community and some from the Tripuri Hindu community, fled after clashes over the abduction of a local leader of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the IANS news agency reported.
Suhas Chakma, director of New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights, alleged that tensions flared after the Muslim settlers attacked the tribals with an intent to grab their land.
At least one tribal was killed and four others were injured while 500 houses were burned in the attacks, he said.
Karim said 35 homes were torched after the local politician was abducted at Matirnaga, some 170km south-east of capital Dhaka.
The government has allocated money to build homes for those who lost their dwellings in the attacks and launched an investigation into the arson, he said.
The conflict in the Chittagong hills is nearly four decades old. In 1986, more than 74,000 tribals took shelter in Tripura following violent attacks.
The refugees returned to their homes in 1997-98 after Dhaka signed a peace accord with a dissident tribal army called Shanti Bahini.
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