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BSF men 'harassing' border area villagers seeking to access farms: West Bengal CS told

Counterview Desk 

Hooghly-based human rights activist Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a representation to the West Bengal chief secretary, bringing to light what he calls "attack upon Constitutional rights of the villagers by the Border Security Force", has said that people of two border villages, Gobra and Gobindapur, are being unnecessarily harassed while seeking to access their agricultural lands.
Stating that BSF personnel place "considerable restrictions" in accessing their agricultural lands, he adds, this is "a direct violation of article 19(1)(d) of the Indian Constitution which allows Indian citizens ‘to move freely throughout the territory of India’."

Text:

I would like to draw your kind attention to the plight of villagers of Gobra and Gobindapur (District: North 24 Parganas, Block: Swarupnagar, Gram Panchayat: Gobindapur) in accessing their agricultural lands, situated across the BSF (Border Security Force) manned border gates on the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Gate number 26 (Gobindapur ‘BOP’ (MIHIR) 112 BN, NAGA ‘D’ Coy BSF Camp to IBBR (T Junction)) is perennially kept closed by the BSF personnel which compels the residents of the villages mentioned above to take a detour of about two kilometres to reach another gate in accessing their own agricultural lands. During the monsoons, the villagers have to wade through waist-deep water to reach their agricultural lands. The non-cooperation of the BSF personnel in opening gate number 26 forces the villagers to spend a considerable amount of time travelling back and forth every day which limits the time they would otherwise spend undertaking agricultural activities. The opening and closing hours of the gates are also not strictly adhered to and no leniency is shown to the villagers who face such an inconvenience in engaging in their core livelihood activity. Hence, due to the fear of harassment, they often have to reach the concerned gate, way early ahead of the opening and closing hours which further reduces their hours of engaging in agricultural work.
It must be noted that gate number 26 did not feature in the initial plans during the fencing of the concerned border areas and the construction of the IBBR (Indo-Bangladesh Border Road). It only came after the villagers demanded the same to ensure easy access to their agricultural lands. We were hopeful that the coordinated efforts of multiple government departments would address the concerns of the villagers through the construction of the gate.
We would like to inform your office with deep concerns, that despite the construction of the gate and related infrastructure, the same is not opened and the villagers are still forced to undertake arduous trek on foot to reach their agricultural lands. 
The decision to not open gate points to insensitivity of BSF personnel and disregard for the interests of the local population

This is a direct violation of their right to practice their livelihood which is an integral part of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, guaranteeing the ‘Right to Life’. The considerable restrictions placed upon them by the BSF personnel in accessing their agricultural lands is again a direct violation of article 19(1)(d) of the Indian Constitution which allows Indian citizens ‘to move freely throughout the territory of India’.
The decision to not open the gate, which came up after a long democratic struggle points to the insensitivity of the BSF personnel and their disregard for the interests of the local population. ‘Amra Simantabasi’ (We the border populace), a community-based association had also written to the District Magistrate of North 24 Parganas on 29/09/2023 (scanned copy attached) but no appropriate action has been taken to date. The letter had been signed by affected individuals and the same had also been attested and recommended for appropriate action by an elected representative of the Gobindapur Gram Panchayat.
We urge your office to take immediate measures to address the concerns of the villagers and ensure that gate number 26 henceforth remains accessible to the villagers, daily at least for 12 hours (6:00 hours to 18:00 hours).
Thanking you, in anticipation of a favourable response from your end.

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