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Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Storm over cross border love

By South Asia analyst Kamal Ahmed

The border between Bangladesh and India is at the centre of an unusual love story.

A Bangladeshi Muslim youth has taken refuge in one of the many Bangladeshi enclaves that juts into India, with a Hindu woman believed to be his fiancée.

But the woman's family and friends in India disapprove of the relationship and have demanded that she return home.

Thousands of people have surrounded the enclave, Mashaldanga, which is only accessible to Bangladeshis who have permission from the Indian authorities.

Seige

Love affairs between Hindus and Muslims in this area of South Asia are often highly controversial, and can provoke largescale protests.

That is why thousands of people have besieged Mashaldanga - which adjoins the Indian state of West Bengal - to demand that she return home.

Like other enclaves formed at the time of India's partition, the people of Mashaldanga cannot leave or depart without the permission of the Indian authorities.

The enclave is surrounded on four sides by India and is only populated by a few thousand people.

Bangladeshi officials say they are in the dark about the situation inside the enclave, because Indian border guards and police have refused to allow them to communicate with its inhabitants.

The few residents who have managed to reach the Bangladeshi mainland have reported shortages of food and other essential commodities.

Porous border

It has been reported that the runaway couple, Mozammel Huq Mandol and Sheema Rani Sarker, are now in hiding.

Skirmishes between India and Bangladesh along their joint border are not uncommon.

In some cases the border is not clearly defined, and smuggling, illegal immigration and cattle theft all take place on a regular basis.

Officials in Dhaka say that they are negotiating with the Indian authorities to resolve the stand-off.

But they say their requests for a meeting with Indian border guards on the issue has not been accepted.

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See also:

25 Aug 99 | South Asia
Border commanders declare truce
19 Jun 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh welcomes bus from India
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