Bangladesh suspends phone services near border with India

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New Delhi/Dhaka, Dec 31 (IANS) Fearing that Muslim refugees living in India might return to Bangladesh, the Sheikh Hasina government on Monday suspended mobile services in areas along the border.

Though the Bangladesh high commission officials in New Delhi said they were not aware of the decision, the Dhaka media reported that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) had issued an order for suspension of services on Sunday.

“We don’t have any such information. Only BTRC can confirm it. We have nothing to do with it,” a high commission official told IANS.

Media reports however said that BTRC in its order to telecommunications service providers- Grameenphone, Teletalk, Robi and Banglalink had asked them to suspend the network in border areas “until further notice for the sake of the country’s security in the current circumstances”.

Dhaka newspapers said the network had been suspended on Monday, affecting around 10 million users in 32 districts of Bangladesh along the border. The decision was taken by the government after a high-level meeting, media reports said.

Intelligence sources however told IANS that the Bangladesh government was concerned about the ongoing protests by both supporters and opponents of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that India passed recently.The law grants citizenship to non-Muslims who were persecuted for their faith in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and had arrived as refugees in India till December 31, 2014.

Earlier, in Assam in northeast bordering Bangladesh, after a long movement against both Hindu and Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, a National Register of Citizens (NRC) was created to identify Indian citizens living since March 24, 1971, or before on the instructions of the Supreme Court. The process disqualified over 19 lakh people.

The CAA has triggered massive protests in India. While in Assam, ethnic natives are opposed to the citizenship of Hindu Bangladeshi refugees granted under CAA, in the rest of the country, opposition has been protesting for excluding Muslims.

Bangladesh has expressed its displeasure over CAA and Modi government’s intent to conduct a country-wide NRC. Early this month, Bangladesh ministers cancelled their visit to India because of the strain caused due to CAA. The Sheikh Hasina government has sought from the Modi government, a list of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India, along with proof.

–IANS

aat/rt

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