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Indo-Bangladesh borders one of the 'most vulnerable, violent': Plea to Amit Shah

By Kirity Roy* 

On the occasion of the Birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, on 9th May 2023, Amit Shah, home minister of the Union government, visited West Bengal to take part in a programme. We heartily welcome his visit. As he visited the State, we want him to look into a few issues of the citizens residing at Indo-Bangladesh border villages to his notice. We hope that he will take cognizance of these matters and take prompt actions to resolve these issues.
Despite the fact that India and Bangladesh are friendly countries, the Indo-Bangladesh border is one of the most vulnerable and violent borders in the world, registering severe bloodshed on a daily basis. On an average a person is being killed every two days on the Indo-Bangladesh border by the BSF. In the case of each of these deaths, surprisingly a couple of things remain constant – the deceased is a criminal in a police case and the murderer under impunity.
The BSF uses pellet guns in the Indo-Bangladesh borders in order to combat whatever they decide as crimes. Several Indian and Bangladeshi citizens are victims of these pellet guns including severe injury even resulting in death. Many of these victims lost their sight due to pellet injury.
We know that the villagers of the Indo-Bangladesh border are heavily dependent on agriculture for livelihood. But, the precarious positioning of the border fencing, which at places are 500 meters to a few kilometers inland, are putting the economic and social life of these people in harm’s way.
Huge swaths of land of these villagers are entrapped between the fencing and the actual border, and they are facing incessant harassment at the hands of the BSF personnel just to access their legally owned lands, even access to their own houses. As we all know, there is no such restrictions at the border between India and Nepal or India and Bhutan. Then, why is the ministry resorting to the practice of double standard in case of another amicable nation, Bangladesh?
Even the people of these villages are having a hard time to access the CPWD roads at the Indo-Bangladesh border, which are not allowed to be used by border dwellers even during the day. Against the law of the land, at many places, the administration is resorting to continuous promulgation 144 CrPC at the demand of BSF to restrict the movement of the people. In some areas, they have banned beef and the sale of cows on the Muslim-dominated border, not allowing vendors to sell beef even if they have licenses.
On the other side of the barbed wire, about 60,000 families continuously endure the unimaginable torture of life like in prison. Only they can depart or arrive from outside when the gate is opened for an hour three times a day. As equal citizens of India, why will they be deprived of their constitutional rights?
As a security force, the duty of BSF is to keep the border safe. Instead they are stooping to new levels of notoriety and putting the very rights of the citizens of these areas at risk. Why does the home minister maintain silence on this?
Finally, for the sake of the rights of our fellow citizens at Indo-Bangladesh border, we would like to reiterate a few long-standing demands:
  • Extra judicial executions must be brought down to zero at the Indo-Bangladesh border in the spirit of the Modi-Hasina meeting of September 2022.
  • BSF must be posted at the actual border instead of inside the villages.
  • All arbitrary fencings must be removed immediately.
  • Border gates must be kept open according to the circular no. 42/11/Ops-05/BSF mandated by DG (Operations) of BSF on 27th September 2005, where it is clearly mentioned that border gates are to be kept open from 6 am to 6 pm during the summer season and from 6 am to 5 pm during the winter.
  • The villagers must be allowed to continue their way of livelihood with restriction. No restrictions on the matter of purchase and sell of groceries should be placed on the villagers in accordance with the report of Mr. R.R Jha (IAS), secretary of MHA, published on 07.04.2011.
  • If BSF acquires any land from the villagers which is placed between the border fencing and the actual border, it must be done according to the land acquisition act and must be compensated and rehabilitated for that as suggested in the 203rd report of the department related parliamentary standing committee on home affairs. If these lands are not acquired in accordance with law, the must ensure that the people living there enjoy all the constitutional rights the law of the land provides them.
  • The use of lethal weapons at the border must be stopped at once.
  • The establishment of weekly Border Huts every 5 to 10 kilometers away in the Indo-Bangladesh borders must be initiated to promote legal trade between two countries.
  • BSF should be removed from the Indo-Bangladesh border in order to avoid further bloodshed of innocent people and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) or any other force should replace the duty in this border.
  • The Indo-Bangladesh border must be managed in accordance with the resolutions of BSF-NHRC meeting of 16-17th February, 2012, held in Kolkata.
We would like to remind him that a densely populated region of Bengal was torn apart by an arbitrary Radcliffe line during the partition of India in 1947. Naturally, it gave rise to a humanitarian crisis in the region hitherto unknown. We would also like to remind that the responsibility to look after the well-being of these people lies with the government. Thus, we would like to believe that. After all, as the home minister he must go beyond his political position and work for the betterment of the citizens as a constitutional authority.
Finally, we would like to state that the person whose birthday the Home Minister was celebrating has always been an out-spoken advocate of humanity. We hope, Amit Shah will pledge for the betterment of the border populace.
---
*Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)

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