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Dalit villagers' crop destroyed: 'Security forces, Bangla infiltrators responsible'

By Our Representative 

A senior human rights leader, in a representation to the National Commission For Scheduled Castes chairperson, has drawn its attention "over pathetic situation" of farmers living in the Mahishmri village, Sitalkuchi block of Cooch Behar district, off the India-Bangladesh border, saying, they have lost standing crop worth Rs 1.25 lakh because of the restrictions imposed by the Border Security Force on reaching their farms.
Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, "Not only the standing crop, the Bangladeshi intruders vandized 13 shallow systems  used to irrigate more the lands."
The complaint said, "All the farmers belong to the schedule caste community. They have agrarian land measuring around 215 acres, which is surrounded by the border fence. Around 120 families of this village are totally dependent on this mentioned land, as agriculture is the only source of living."
"The land could be approached and reached through the Gate No 10 of Kamol Border Outpost of 157 Border Security Force Battalion. The land is fertile and yield thrice in a year. As the high yielding lands demand greater agrarian attention, they also require visit of the farmers and agrarian labourers thrice a day", it added.
However, Roy regretted, "The posted BSF at the mentioned gate arbitrarily open and close the gate according to their whims between 7-8 in morning, 12-1 during noon and 4-5 during evening. Compounding the difficulty, Bangladeshi cattle often graze the standing crops, and the posted BSF personnel only witness the loss without any intervention."
According to Roy, "The farmers of the village made several requests to BSF for protection of their crops. Due to this continuous crop loss, two months back, an altercation broke between Indian and Bangladeshi residents. On April 20, 2024, revengeful Bangladeshi residents illegally entered the Indian soil and sprayed poison on standing boro paddy in two acres of land. The yield was totally destroyed by this act." 
Some of the affected farmers
Roy said, "The farmers owning this 37 acres of land failed to irrigate boro paddy due to absence of
 shallows and faced crop loss. The vandalization of shallows resulted in a loss of Rs 1.30 lakh, ten thousand rupees per shallow."
He further said, "While this incident was informed to the Company Commander of Kamol BOP of 157 Battalion of BSF Ratan Sarkar, he met his Bangladeshi counterpart in a Flag Meeting on April 24, 2024, but refused to divulge the decisions and topics of the meeting to the villagers. He even advised to the villagers that they have to live amicably with the Bangladeshis."
Worse, asserted Roy, the BSF official  "cautioned the villagers on making any complaints to any departments/ agencies. He said if the villagers defied his diktat and make any complaints to any authority, then they will be restricted to visit their lands, which is surrounded by the border fence."
The complaint continued, "The farmers  discussed the issue with local Member of Assembly Baren Barman, who advised the villagers to make complaints before the respective Block Development Officer and Sub Divisional Officer."
"On April  26, 2024, the farmers went to the Sitalkuchi Police Station to submit a written complaint, at first instance. The Officer in Charge refused to accept the complaint but after prolonged persuasion, though he accepted the complaint but refused to provide a receipt copy of the complaint", it added.
On April 26, 2024, Roy said, "The villagers met the respective BDO and informed him about their loss; he asked the villagers to make written complaint, and after making the same, he assured the villagers that he will investigate the allegation. Villagers subsequently submitted a written and mass memorandum to the respective BDO, SDO and Agricultural Officer, but till date no corrective measures has been taken."
He demanded penal action against respective posted border guards of the Kamol Border Outpost of 157 Border Security Force Battalion and the Officer in Charge of Sitalkuchi Police Station in Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. He also insisted that "BSF must stop illegal and arbitrary restriction on movements of  citizens."



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