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Sections of BSF, BGB personnel 'directly or indirectly' involved in cross border smuggling

By Kirity Roy* 

The Border Security Force (BSF) of India and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) of Bangladesh met for 54th Director General level meeting at Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 5th to 9th March, 2024 to discuss on minimizing killings at border area, illegal intrusion, trafficking of drugs and other narcotics, smuggling of arms and ammunitions and other crimes at bordering areas. Further, the summit had an agenda to discuss on overall development in 150 yards area at both sides of the border and design an activity plan for the same.
We at the Banglar Manabadhikar Surakksha Mancha (MASUM) welcome this initiative but with a cautious observation on their sincerity and honesty.
Through a press release, we came to know that the two forces have decided to minimise the incidents of physical torture, killings and bodily harm upon Bangladeshi villagers in to zero through joint root marches and overall developmental actions but the statement is not uttered a single word on killings and physical harms upon Indian citizenry. 
Despite the fact that India and Bangladesh are friendly countries, the Indo-Bangladesh border is the most vulnerable and violent border in the world registering severe bloodshed on a daily basis. On an average a person is being killed every two days in the Indo-Bangladesh border by the BSF. In case of each of these deaths, surprisingly a couple of things remain constant — deceased is criminal in police case according to complaint of BSF and the murderer enjoys impunity. 
Trigger happy BSF has no respect upon democratic institutions like NHRC. Though this joint statement conveyed its pain on the killing of BGB personal at 24 Parganas (North), West Bengal by the posted BSF personnel but there were serious procedural flaws on investigation and handing over the body (see MASUM statement on January 25, 2024). 
We categorically said: 
“….This incident once again proves trigger happy characteristics of the border guards of India; the BSF. The Border Security Force authority cannot be given the right to behave as the executioner. Most important part is that though the deceased was a BGB personal but there was no evidence that he has made any attack to the BSF personnel during the whole incident. 
"The higher-ups of BGB categorically said that from BGB did not use any single bullet in the incident. Border Security Force personnel with the help of firearms fired at him and killed him and it was not a retaliatory action. In this case, instead of arresting the person and handing him over to the police, the Border Security Force personnel fired him to death. In no circumstances, involvement in cross border smuggling or illegal entry to India attract death penalty...”
In this statement, the BSF higher ups made pretense on their concern about the development of bordering areas; in real term, they are regularly constraining the economic activities of the villagers by restricting their normal movements, arbitrarily encroaching to their free choice of cultivation and other business activities. The civil and BSF authorities using the BADP money in non permissible accounts without any check while the citizenry of bordering areas of West Bengal living under abject marginalization.
The BSF use pellet guns in the Indo-Bangladesh borders in order to combat crimes. Several Indian and Bangladeshi innocent persons are victims of these pellet guns including severe injury even resulting to death. Many of these victims lost their sight due to pellet injury. We also demand justice for these victims of torture and the family members of the persons who were killed in border by the BSF. We suggested to constitute joint investigating team consisting the members of National Human Rights Commission of India and Jatiya Manabadhikar Commission of Bangladesh.
MASUM is facilitating two cases, which are pending before the Supreme Court of India – 1. Md. Nur Islam versus Union of India (WP 141 (criminal) of 2015 generally known as Felani Khatun case; and 2. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha versus Union of India (WP (Civil) 218 of 2012) where we prayed an order declaring section 46 and 47 of BSF Act, 1968 is ultra vires to Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Felani Khatun was shot dead on 7th January 2011 by BSF personnel while she was illegally trying to cross the barbed wire from India to Bangladesh. Human Rights organisations of India and Bangladesh made protests to this ghastly murder. BSF’s security court acquitted the accused. Later, an appellate court of BSF also made order for acquittal. 
Indo-Bangladesh border is the most vulnerable and violent border in the world registering severe bloodshed on a daily basis
NHRC took up the case and observed that the killing was uncalled-for, as at the time of the incident, she was unarmed not even stones have been seized from her by the BSF and in no way she was in position to attack BSF personnel. NHRC recommended for monetary compensation to the family but till date Ministry of Home Affairs of India refused to oblige NHRC recommendation. MASUM facilitated the writ petition in Supreme Court of India. Both the cases are pending for long in Supreme Court of India.
The statement showed their concern over cross border smuggling of narcotics, fire arms and explosives, fake currency and gold and prescribed for Coordinated Border Management Plan, but the fact which is known to all concerned person is that, a large section of BSF and BGB personnel has direct or indirect involvement in cross border smuggling. The statement showed its concern regarding the life and liberty of the people living within150 yards of international border but in real sense, BSF made the life hell to the people living in these area, arbitrary restrictions of many hues, infringement on liberty and threat to life is the rule of the day.
The joint statement stated that both the countries will show zero tolerance in case of illegal intrusion but silent about the 1st May, 2012 memorandum of the Home Department of the Government of India, in which the Government of India said that the Bangladeshi women and children, who are being apprehended by the BSF for crossing the international border as trafficked or in search of jobs, should not be treated as criminals, and they should be allocated to a government transit home and repatriated to Bangladesh, maintaining due procedure.
Indian Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs made many recommendations on BSF’s activities and roles in 2017, MASUM demands a complete adherence of these recommendations.
At last MASUM will eagerly wait to see the outcomes of this summit level meeting of BSF and BGB with a hope that one day, the bordering areas between India and Bangladesh will be violence free and citizenry will enjoy the constitutional rights and guarantees.  
---
*Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM); National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly

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