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No probe? Bangladeshi women detained in West Bengal 'victims of human trafficking'

Counterview Desk  
Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM),  and National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, has brought to light two cases of Bangladeshi women, who were treated as accused "without proper investigation" by the police and the Border Security Force (BSF) whether they were victims of human trafficking, for which there is an agreement between India and Bangladesh.
"The police or BSF personnel or the concern court must initiate to investigate whether those Bangladeshi persons are the victims of human trafficking or not", Roy said in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He insiste that the victims should be "immediately repatriated to their own country and the criminal charges against them must be withdrawn". 

Text:

I am writing this complaint regarding detention of Bangladeshi women in West Bengal and accusing and treating them as criminals under Foreigners Act, 1946. For a long time MASUM has been trying to bring this systematic violation of laws by the BSF and police administration into light by making numerous complaints to the NHRC and other relevant departments. The authorities including police and Border Security Force are not at all concerned to initiate proper investigation into whether the persons including women and children crossed the border from Bangladesh to India were the victims of human trafficking or not. Here I am appending two case details for your perusal.

Case 1: 

In connection with Swarupnagar Police Station Case no. 447/2022 dated 04/05/2022 under section 14/14 C of Foreigners Act, the following Bangladeshi women were arrested:
1. Ms. Nasima Begum, daughter of Hussain Seikh, Aged - 35 years, residential address: - Village – Katani Para, Post Office – Sanhati, P.S – Degolia, District - Khulna, Bangladesh.
2. Ms. Yasmin Begum, wife of Kamal Mridha, Aged 28 years, residential address: - Village – Katani Para, Post Office – Sanhati, P.S – Degolia, District - Khulna, Bangladesh.
Both the victims are Bangladeshi nationals, who were trying to return back Bangladesh from India on 04.05.2022 at around 5.10 p.m. when they were apprehended by BSF personnel attached with B coy of 112 Battalion, Amudia BOP and later handed over to the Swarupnagar Police Station. Swarupnagar PS registered an FIR in this regard. On the next day those victims were produced before the Basirhat Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court. 
The magistrate sent them to the Dum Dum Central Correctional Home for 14 day jail custody. From the letter of the BSF it revealed that Nasima along with Yasmin came to India in 2021 and last one year they worked as domestic helpers in Mumbai for livelihood. As per the Article number 2 under II definition MoU of between the Government of the India and the Government of of Bangladesh on Bilateral Cooperation for Preventing of Human Trafficking, especially trafficking in women and children, signed by both countries on 30th May 2015, trafficking in women and children shall mean selling, buying, recruitment, receipt, transportation, transfer or harbouring of any person for the purpose of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery servitude or the removal of the organs or any other form of exploitation. 
Then how are these two victims treated as accused?
From the accused challan it is understood that during the time of production of those women victims before the judicial magistrate, two male escort party members constable No 396 Mr. Manchi Mondal and constable no. 197 Biswajit Naskar took them before the Basirhat court which is 19 kilometers far from the Swarupnagar police station. Why any female constable was not present at the escort party? 
Here the incident occurred and apprehension of those accused persons by the BSF on 04.05.2022 at about 17.10 hrs but BSF informed the police after 6 hours i.e, at 23.15 hrs dated 04.05.2022. For 6 hours these women victims were under BSF custody whereas the distance between the said BOP and the police station is 15 kilometers. 
General rule is BSF has to inform the concerned police regarding the apprehension of any accused as early as possible after his apprehension. According to the requisition letter of FIR of the BSF, Mr. Arif Billa Gazi, attached with SANLAAP NGO, did counseling to the accused women and confirmed that the accused persons are not trafficked victims. 
Through our fact findings it reveals that Mr. Arif Billa is a social worker of SANLAAP who does not have the counseling expertise. Then how the BSF personnel claimed in a written document that the aforesaid case is not a case of trafficking? In addition, just after apprehension the counseling should not be done because at that time the victims are highly traumatized.

Case 2:

In connection with Swarupnagar Police Station Case no. 445/2022 dated 04.05.2022 under section 14 of Foreigners Act, the following Bangladeshi woman along with her lap baby were arrested:
1. Ms. Farjana Begum, wife of Mujaydul Islam Aged - 20 years, residential address: - Village – Pratapnagar, Post Office – Nakna, P.S – Ashshwani, District - Satkhira, Bangladesh along with her lap baby namely Muslima Akhtar, Aged – 18 months.
The victims were the Bangladeshi nationals, who were trying to enter India from Bangladesh on 04.05.2022 at around 05:30 p.m when they were apprehended by BSF personnel attached with A coy of 112 Battalion, Tarali BOP and later handed over to the Swarupnagar Police Station. The victims were produced before the Basirhat ACJM court on 05.05.2022 and sent to the Dumdum Central Correctional Home for 14-day jail custody.
Here the incident occurred and apprehension of those accused persons by the BSF on 04.05.2022 at about 17.30 hrs but BSF informed the police after more than 5 hours i.e, at 22.35 hrs dated 04.05.2022 but reason behind this delay was not mentioned anywhere. For more than 5 hours that woman, including her lap baby, was under BSF custody. 
Police or BSF or the concerned court never attempted to investigate if the Bangladeshi persons were victims of human trafficking
General rule is BSF inform the concerned police regarding the apprehension of any accused as early as possible after his apprehension. In this case also during the time of production of those victims before the judicial magistrate, two male escort party members constable No. 396 Mr. Manchi Mondal and constable no. 197 Biswajit Naskar took them before the Basirhat court which is 19 kilometers far from the Swarupnagar police station. No female constable was present at the escort party.
Through our fact finding it reveals that in both the cases the victim women including a lap baby were forwarded to ACJM court at Basirhat from Swarupnagar police station which is about 19 kilometers far from the Swarupnagar police station, by male police personnel not by female police. The arrested Bangladeshi women entered India for the purpose of working in India as they are terribly poverty-stricken people with no jobs in Bangladesh.
According to the office memorandum of the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) Government of India Dated 1st May, 2012 it clearly instructed about the procedure of dealing with the victims of trafficking. The memorandum stated that if the women and children victims were found without a valid passport or visa then they have to repatriate to their country of origin through diplomatic channels. 
Till the repatriation they must be kept in an appropriate children’s home, or “Ujjawala” home or appropriate shelter home. In reality, police or BSF personnel or the concerned court never attempt to initiate to investigate whether those Bangladeshi persons are the victims of human trafficking or not. Additionally, the victims are kept in the correctional home. 
From other several instances it also found that the people of Bangladesh illegally enter India for the purpose of medical treatment as they have very limited facilities in their native place. Cross border trafficking is very organized crime where touts or middlemen are operating this crime in connivance with border guards of both sides, India and Bangladesh. These helpless Bangladeshi persons enter India for better livelihood or for medical treatment purposes but when they are arrested; they are treated as accused under the Foreigners Act.
This approach is also violating the Article 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12 of the MoU between The Government of of India and the Government of of Bangladesh on Bilateral Cooperation for Preventing of Human Trafficking, especially trafficking in women and children; signed by both countries on 30th May 2015.
The incidents are not only violating the advisory of Government of India but in violation of Goal Number 16 of Sustainable Development Goals of UN, Government of India is a party to set the goals and obliged to adhere to the same.
Under the circumstances I request your urgent intervention in this case to bring justice to the victims by taking the necessary actions:
  • The police or BSF personnel or the concern court must initiate to investigate whether those Bangladeshi persons are the victims of human trafficking or not
  • The victim persons including the child should be immediately repatriated to their own country and the criminal charges against them must be withdrawn at the earliest
  • The victim persons including child should be transferred to a appropriate home from the Dumdum correctional home at the earliest
  • Government should initiate to conduct sensitization program for police personnel, BSF personnel and other legal authorities on area of human rights, trafficking, repatriation and restoration
  • The matters must be handled by the police or the BSF personnel with the humanities

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