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NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border:
I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice.
From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-border smuggling. The Indo-Bangladesh border fence erected in the AOR of BOP Chengmari is generally at a distance of 150 mtrs from the International Boundary as per international norms and bilateral agreement between the two neighbouring countries and no restriction has been imposed on the movement of the bonafide villagers for cultivation on agricultural land ahead of IBBF. Based on the report your Commission closed the case. But I did not receive the said report of the concerned authority dated 18.01.2022 and without giving the complainant any chance to peruse the report of the concerned authority, your authority closed the case. How is it possible that without giving any chance to comment on the report submitted by the concerned authority, your Commission itself closed the case? Your Commission is the Supreme institution of the protector of the human rights of every citizen within the territory of India and being the Supreme institution of human rights, your Commission violated the most cherished rule of law i.e. ‘audialterampartem’ (hear the other side). The complainant must be given a chance to submit his comments upon the enquiry report of the concerned authority in connection with the above referred case. Being the complainant, MASUM has full right to peruse the enquiry report in connection with this case. Section 18 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 also provides to send the copy of the enquiry report to the petitioner or his representatives. But here NHRC violates the norms mentioned in its own guiding statute.
In the action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that BSF is committed to its role of creating a sense of security amongst the border population and is organizing various welfare programmes for empowerment and upliftment of the marginalized border population. After receiving this action taken status report we contacted the villagers of Changmari. They informed us that there were not any welfare measures of the BSF executed in the village of Changmari. Is the enquiry officer reported the names of welfare measures of the BSF executed in the village of Changmari? Continuous restriction by the BSF upon the lives and livelihood of the villagers of Changmari is still continuing. BSF personnel neither meet with all villagers to sort out the problems between them.
It is not that the Indo-Bangladesh border fence erected in the AOR of BOP Changmari is generally at a distance of 150 mtrs from the International Boundary as per international norms and bilateral agreement between the two neighbouring countries. Actually, the farming land of the villagers of Changmariis near the Bangladesh border and the Kaljaniriver flows by the side of their agricultural lands. Approximately seven or eight years ago, their farmlands were all washed away by the erosion of Kaljaniriver. As a result of the river erosion, the Kaljaniriver moved closer to the villagers’ houses. At that time Border Security Force authority for security reasons constructed fencing near the houses of the villagers. At present as the Kaljaniriver goes back to its previous place, a large area has been abandoned and a vast alluvial land (Char) is made naturally. That alluvial land is very much suitable for cultivation. As the fencing was constructed by the BSF somewhere 3 kilometer, 2 kilometer and somewhere 1 kilometer distance from the actual zero point, the Border Security Force personnel restricted the movement of the villagers to the other side of the fences and thereby the villagers are restricted from agricultural activities. The Border Security Forces did not allow them to enter their agricultural land outside the fences. This fencing was constructed by the BSF arbitrarily. Outside the fencing 500 to 600 bigha of land remain which is not allowed to be cultivated by the BSF.In December, 2020 Company Commander of Changmari BSF camp told the villagers to cultivate in those alluvial land. The villagers cleaned up the alluvial land for cultivation of chili. But after that Border Security Force jawans of Changmari Border Out Post imposed restrictions upon the chili cultivation of the villagers. BSF did not allow the villagers to enter that alluvial land for cultivation even though they did not allow cows or goats of the villagers to enter that land for grazing. At every moment BSF jawans of Changmari BSF camp oppresses the villagers of this area. If any villagers protested, BSF threatened to implicate them in false charges. Villagers several time requested the BSF authority to place the fencing within 150 yards distance from the zero point of the border, but they did not pay any attention to this matter.
It is not that MASUM put any false allegations against the concerned BSF personnel. Villagers of Changmari submitted a mass petition against the arbitrary action of the BSF personnel. On 25.03.2021 the villagers of Changmari jointly submitted one written application to the District Magistrate of Cooch Behar district and requested to place the fencing within 150 yards from the International Border Point but till date no positive response has been taken in this regard.(A copy of the said mass petition is annexed herewith for your kind perusal.)
Recently, Border Security Forces attached with Changmari Border Out Post, 62 battalion constructed make-shift bamboo fencing in the agricultural land of the villagers. The villagers objected to this construction but BSF personnel by force constructed the fencing in the agricultural land of the villagers. 
From the action taken status report it is revealed that the concerned authority in their report mentioned that the allegations levelled against BSF by MASUM are false and baseless and are aimed to tarnish the image of the Force and to demoralize force personnel who are discharging their bonafide Govt. duties on the International Border. It is not true. From 1997 to till date MASUM has been continuing to raise their voice against the human rights violation of the poor, innocent people of the bordering areas by the armed forces. We have a lot of experience how BSF torture upon the bordering populace in the name of checking and even kill them and sometimes disappear the bodies and ultimately they made concocted stories of smuggling and self defense and falsely register cases on the police station. In recent five years we lodged total 240 cases of BSF torture, 60 cases of extra judicial execution by BSF and 8 cases of disappearance among which in 33 cases your Commission recommended compensation to the victims or their next of kin. In our short range MASUM has been able to bring these small amounts of cases in front of your Commission but such things are happening in large numbers throughout the bordering areas. We were witnessing that Mr.Satish Kumar, one ex-BSF Commandant of 36 Battalion in Malda District of West Bengal, was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation for being involved in illegal trade and smuggling of cattle. According to the CBI enquiry, Kumar would sell the seized cattle at auctions to the smugglers in exchange of 2000 INR per cattle. He was also a partner of an international cross border trafficking business with the kingpin. For the past 20 years, MASUM has been claiming that the illegal cattle trade at the Indo-Bangladesh border is not possible without the aid of corrupt BSF personnel, Customs officials, a section of politicians and the police. This incident of Satish Kumar is revealing the truth of our claim. So, it is now proved that MASUM never made any false allegation against BSF.
Being the supreme institution of human rights, NHRC becomes a mouthpiece of the administration. In this instant case concerned authority submitted his report to the Commission where the report claimed that the BSF did not put any restriction upon the life and livelihood of the villagers and the allegations levelled against BSF by MASUM is false. But the concerned authority did not submit any documentary evidence in support of their report. Without any documentary proof how NHRC can believe that BSF did not put any restriction upon the life and livelihood of the villagers and MASUM falsely complained against BSF. In this connection a question raised in the minds of the people of India, “Is National Human Rights Commission becoming a mouthpiece of the administration?” Without any documentary evidence and without any impartial inquiry how NHRC believed the truthfulness of the report? On what basis your Commission is sure that BSF did not put any restriction on the agricultural activities of the villagers. From different directions in several cases one thing is clear that the National Human Rights Commission gives much reliance on the report of the administration or any other concerned state authorities by which the rights of the victimized people are curtailed. If this situation continues, then after some decades the so-called term ‘human rights’ would be abolished from the mind of the nation.
Your authority closed the case as the concerned authority reported that there was no restriction by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari. But it is not just a procedure. The National Human Rights Commission should be like a neutral and independent authority and should not be blindly dependent on the report of any state authorities.
It should be remembered that Paris Principles guides the workings of National Human Rights Institutions, where it is laid down that National Human Rights Institutions’ are funded by the State but are independent of it, they are not non- governmental institutions but they act as bridge between civil societies and Government and they receive and consider complaints of human rights violations, participate in accountability and transitional justice process in countries affected by conflict or in transition after conflict, assist the development of democratic institutions and organize capacity building in the areas of accountability, the rule of law and democracy.
I want to keep faith upon NHRC that this institution wants to take steps against perpetrators who violated constitutional rights of the citizens of India. It seems that by passing such an unproductive order NHRC is trying to increase the numbers of closed cases by the NHRC.
Therefore, sir, considering my above stated comments, kindly take proper action and withdraw the action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 and independently inquire into the case and give justice to the villagers of Changmari.



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