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BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy* 
One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 
They are also posted inside villages, and the actual border remains unguarded. This disrupts gravely, along the entire stretch of the Indo-Bangladesh border, the villagers’ agriculture and livelihood as well as their regular lives. BSF personnel also subject villagers to regular harassment and de-humanization; often torturing them brutally on the roads, or on their own agricultural lands, or even inside their own homes where BSF trespass.
However, according to the West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973’s sections 19 (2) (a), (d), and (f), the gram panchayat is the only designated authority for any construction for public purposes or utility and if any department/ body/ authority tries to perform the same, it is illegal and punishable in law. BSF in different districts of West Bengal are being arbitrarily and illegally involved in such civil construction activities.
BSF personnel had dangerously undertaken to dig a trench through the Chetnagachh village with heavy earthmovers. No precautions were taken even to dispose of or store the displaced loose soil safely. Four local children, Golam Mustafa (5 years), Yusuf Ali (6 years), Mohammad Islam (5 years) and Taleb Ali (12 years), were present in the work-site on the morning of Monday, 12th February, 2024, and a mound of loose soil caved in, burying all four of them. After rescuing them, they were sent to the Chopra Dalui hospital by villagers, where they were all declared dead. 
It is proved that the spot is not under the scanner of the posted BSF personnel. Similar trench-digging activities is in progress in Jhaukuthi and Dhadial in Toofangunj block and Haridas in Dinhata block of Cooch Behar district, where 62 and 90 Battalions of BSF are posted respectively. Several complaints against digging trenches by the BSF in the villages of North Bengal are lying pending before the Union Government, State Government, BSF and local administration for years.
It is also not true that E Coy of 32 BN BSF was digging a drain, as they claimed before media. It is the plan now carried out by Northern Bengal Frontier to dig 10’-15’ deep trench at every villages bordering Bangladesh. Police, BDO, local Panchayets are powerless before armed BSF.
The responsibility for these unfortunate and entirely avoidable deaths of four children lies squarely on the shoulders of BSF personnel of the ‘E’ Company of the 132nd Battalion, who undertook a dangerous project of trench-digging inside the village illegally, and furthermore took no precautions to ensure the safety of the villagers and children during this undertaking.
Hence, MASUM has demanded: 
  1. Digging trench in the villages by BSF should be stopped; 
  2. BSF should be posted through the IBP; 
  3. The Commander of E Coy of 32 BN BSF should be apprehended and be presented in open court of law for killing 4 minors; and 
  4. The four victim families should be adequately compensated.
*Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM); National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)



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