Dhaka: Citing "security" reasons, the Bangladesh government has shut down mobile telephone networks along the country's borders with India, hitting around 10 million subscribers.
The government's directive to the telecommunication operators came days after India's Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), causing much concern in Dhaka that it could lead to an influx of migrants from India.
The operators suspended the networks on Monday within a one kilometre band of the country's borders with India, the Dhaka Tribune reported.
India and Bangladesh share nearly 4,100 km of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), in its order to telecommunications service providers- Grameenphone, Teletalk, Robi and Banglalink- on Sunday, said network coverage in the border areas should be suspended until further notice "for the sake of the country's security in the current circumstances", it said.
"A high-level meeting of the government took this decision, following which the instructions were issued," BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque was quoted as saying by bdnews24.com. However, he declined to elaborate.
A BTRC official was quoted as saying in the Dhaka Tribune that around 2,000 base transceiver stations have been closed that would affect around 10 million users in 32 districts that share border with India and Myanmar.
According to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 following religious persecution in the three countries will get Indian citizenship.
Reacting to the protests in India over the CAA, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen on December 22 voiced concern that any "uncertainty" in India is likely to affect its neighbours.
According to the media reports, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and Foreign Minister Momen expressed ignorance over the government's decision to suspend mobile communications in the border areas with India.
"I do not have any such information. Let me know about it first and then I will comment," Kamal said.
Brig Gen (retd) S M Farhad, secretary general at the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said, "mobile network operators in Bangladesh are compliant with government regulations; accordingly, the directive on border network coverage has already been implemented.
"This decision will certainly have an impact since a large segment of citizens in the border areas will be out of the range of the internet, voice and other services," he said.
Foreign Minister Momen has said that Bangladesh has requested New Delhi to provide a list of Bangladeshi nationals living illegally in India, "if any", to be repatriated.
He had also cancelled his visit to India beginning December 12, hours before he was to arrive in New Delhi.
According to diplomatic sources in New Delhi, Momen and Home Minister Khan cancelled their visits to India over the situation arising out of the passage of the controversial Citizenship Bill in Parliament.
Bangladesh was learnt to have been upset following the roll out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam though India conveyed to Dhaka that the issue was an "internal matter" of the country.
The NRC has been prepared to identify genuine Indian citizens living in Assam since March 24, 1971, or before, and identify illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the state.
Out of 3.3 crore applicants, over 19 lakh people were excluded from the final NRC published on August 30.