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BSF 'not allowing' Dalit, OBC farmers to freely reach up to farmlands: Complaint to NHRC

By Our Representative 

Complaining against "severe restriction of movement and illegitimate restrictions on livelihood" of the villagers of Bohar, Bindol gram panchayat, Raiganj block, Uttar Dinajpur district, a senior West Bengal-based human rights activist has blamed Border Security Force (BSF) personnel for "not allowing" the local farmers to "take tractors, chemical fertilizers and pesticides in their respective farming lands."
In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairman, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, most of the farmers of the 3,400-stong village are Dalits owning 198 acres of cultivable land, located outside the border fencing. "The BSF regulates the ingress and egress of the villagers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates according to their whims", he regretted.
Pointing out that the distance between the border fence and the International Border Pillar is on average 500 meters, Roy said, "The farmers of the village use gate number 9, 10 and 11 to reach their land, but most of the times gate number 9 and 11 are not opened by BSF personnel. Moreover, BSF demands some unreasonable benefits from the farmers for using the gate."
He continued, "The condition of village roads is very bad. Villagers cannot use that road for commuting during monsoon season. Even school students cannot go to school during monsoon. It is difficult for an ambulance to carry patients through this road."
According to Roy, "The villagers residing in the alluvial plains cultivate multiple crops and vegetables like potato, chili, eggplant, jute and corn as the agricultural land is very fertile. There are restrictions on the cultivation of jute and corn from the BSF."
Claiming that the other side of the fence, Indian territory, "is completely unprotected" as BSF is "not stationed there", Roy added, "Many times, Bangladeshi goons destroy farmers' agricultural fields because that part is not protected by border security forces. Due to this, villagers face a huge financial loss of around Rs 60,00,000 per year, per bigha."

OBC Muslims 'harassed'

In a separate complaint to the NHRC chairperson, Roy said, BSF personnel -- attached with the Purba Basatpur Border Out Post close to the International Border Pillar -- have put up undue restrictions upon "activities of the villagers", stating, "There is no limit to harassment against the villagers if anyone complained against BSF."
He added, "Its personnel attached with Purba Basatpur Border Out Post close to the International Border Pillar have put restrictions upon daily activities of the villagers. As a result the normal life of the villagers is greatly affected."
The only source of income of the villagers is agriculture. This illegal restriction of the BSF plunged their families into deeper poverty
Stating that "illegitimate restrictions imposed on agriculture by BSF personnel is leading to huge suffering heavy financial losses to the villagers, and "despite lodging complaints to the Block Development Officer of Raiganj block and District Magistrate of Karnajora, North Dinajpur, on 9th Spetember, 2022, no action has been taken." He added, "About 2,000 people reside in the Purba Basaatpur village. Almost 75 percent of the villagers belong from Muslim Other Backward Class."
Noting that average monthly income of villagers is Rs 5000, and the distance between the border fence and the International Border Pillar (IBP) 200-400 meters, Roy said, "About 700 bighas of agricultural land is there in the village. Here most of the people are Muslims and farm labourers from the minority community. The soil and climate of this region is very suitable for jute cultivation. No other crops grow well in this land except jute and maize. On the other hand, jute has an economical value. Its market value is quite good."
However, the BSF personnel "close the border gates and controls the ingress and egress of the villagers", he said, adding, "The villagers are economically distressed, so they tried to request the BSF officials to open the gate but were turned away. The BSF has restricted jute cultivation." 
While BSF claimed, "they act only to stop smuggling in the border areas", the fact is the restriction violates the cultivators' right to livelihood which results in the loss of the villagers", he said.
According to Roy, both the incidents perpetrated by the BSF are "a violation of Article 19 (1) (g) and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution", adding, "The only source of income of the villagers is agriculture. This illegal restriction of the BSF plunged their families into deeper poverty."
He demanded, BSF should be posted at the zero point, and not inside the villages; disciplinary action should be taken against the BSF personnel and all others for imposing illegal restrictions upon the villagers and harassing them; and farmers should be compensated for the financial loss due to the illegal restriction of the BSF.

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