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BSF's unconstitutional, whimsical order violates life, livelihood of Dalits, minorities

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission:

***
I want to attract your attention towards the illegitimate restrictions on the life and livelihood of the villagers of Paschim Sahebganj village under Dinhata - II Block and Sahebganj police station in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal by the Border Security Force personnel attached with Dharala Border Out Post under 138 Battalion BSF.
The population of Paschim Sahebganj village is around 1480, where almost 75 percent of the villagers belong from Hindu Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and 25 percent from minority Muslim backgrounds.The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. About 260 acres of cultivable land in the village that belongs to the villagers is located outside the border fencing, which is heavily guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF regulates the ingress and egress of the villagers to their fields through the fencing gates that are located about 300 meters to 500 meters from the International Border Pillar (IBP).
Our fact-finding reveals that the agricultural land outside the fencing is very fertile and multiple crops can be cultivated throughout the year. About 18 families reside across the fencing and more than 80 families have their agricultural land there. Since 2015, the BSF has put restrictions upon the cultivation of the villagers. They are not allowed to cultivate profitable crops like jute, maize etc. in their own agricultural lands. Moreover, the land across the fencing doesn't have irrigation facilities, toilets and roads, due to which the villagers face regular troubles. The BSF, according to their whims, opens the fencing gates even after an interval of three or four days. When questioned, on duty BSF states that the gates are closed to reduce illegal cross-border smuggling activities at the border. Due to these illegitimate restrictions imposed by the BSF, the villagers are suffering heavy financial loss and are being forced to migrate elsewhere in search of better livelihood. It has been found that the villagers for being restricted to cultivate jute and maize in their lands are incurring a financial loss of Rupees 60 to 90 thousand per acre of land.
On 24.01.2023, the villagers lodged a written complaint to the Block Development Officer of Dinhata – II block on the issues of restriction on their livelihood. But no action has been taken by the concerned authorities regarding the issues.
Following are the names and details of few victim villagers:
These whimsical actions and arbitrary restriction imposed by the Border Security Force personnel of Dharala Border Outpost upon the villagers of Sahebganj is not only challenging their life and livelihood but also violating the Article 21 and Article 19 of the Constitution of India and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The plight of the villagers and denial of their proper livelihood practices is against the Articles 7 and 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)as well as the goal number 8 and 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In all these international instruments, the Government of India is a party and has taken pledge to adhere with.
Under the circumstances, I request your urgent intervention in this case by fulfilling these demands of the villagers:
· The Border Security Force should be posted at the zero point and not inside the village.
· BSF should be instructed to follow the law of the land and stop imposing their own made-up rules
· Disciplinary action should be taken against the BSF Company Commander of Dharala BSF BOP and all others for imposing illegal restrictions upon the villagers and harassing them
· BSF should not restrict the life and livelihood of the villagers particularly of the farmers.
· The villagers should be provided with agricultural support.
· The farmers should be compensated for the financial loss due to the illegal restriction of the BSF attached with Dharala BOP.

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