‘Bangladeshis shot dead by BSF near Lalmonirhat border: Families still waiting for bodies’. This was the headline of one of Bangladesh’s leading dailies on September 26, 2021.
BSF shoots Bangladeshi youth dead along Satkhira border, another English daily reports.
Over 1,200 Bangladeshis killed across the border by Indian forces for the past 2 decades, according to a local human rights group.
In a major international border-related move, India has increased the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) empowering its officers to make arrests, search and seizures up to an area of 50 km in its states that share borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Although India claims that the move is meant to “improve BSF's operational efficiency” and “crackdown on smuggling rackets”, drawing sharp criticism from West Bengal and Punjab ministers. But I think, amidst these, the Indian government has given license to BSF to kill more in the name of national security.
For example, let’s talk about Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi man was shot dead by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) at the Dantbhanga border in Roumari Upazila of Kurigram. The murder took place last month. A few days ago, BSF shot dead two Bangladeshi youths at the Burimari border in Patgram Upazila of Lalmonirhat. On July 14, another Bangladeshi was shot dead by BSF at the Lohakuchi border in the same district. The killing of Bangladeshis by firing for no reason and for negligent reasons has become a habit of the BSF. The Bangladesh-India border is considered to be the most dangerous border in the world. This is because of the reckless behaviour and role of the BSF. There have also been comments in the international media that BSF members are using Bangladeshis as targets for their target practice.
The BSF's offensive activities do not provide much security to the lives, property and dignity of the Bangladeshi citizens on the border. They are always terrified of the BSF's terror. The issue of non-use of deadly weapons on the border and reduction of killings to zero has been discussed at various levels apart from the border guards of the two countries. India has repeatedly promised that no deadly weapons will be used at the border and that killings will be reduced to zero. But India did not show any goodwill in keeping these promises. Statistics show that 1,238 Bangladeshis have been killed by the BSF in the last two decades. In 2020, the BSF killed 46 Bangladeshis as a human rights organization, the Law and Arbitration Center. At the same time, 48 people were picked up, but no trace of them was found. In the previous year, 2019, 43 people were killed by the BSF. Is the life of Bangladeshis so cheap that BSF will take it whenever it wants?
It goes without saying that India's promise has turned out to be a deception. Many claim that Bangladesh-India relations are a role model in the world in terms of bilateral relations. Not only that, but it is also claimed that the relations between the two countries are the most developed, the most cordial so far. Yet why is this fragile situation on the border, this aggression, this relentless killing? Indian authorities should think and consider this cordially. According to some observers, the reason lies in the mindset of Indian security agencies to Bangladesh. They should respect the sovereignty of Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi people.
Bangladesh has fulfilled almost all of Indian demands. But India doesn't want to give in exchange. Apart from Bangladesh, several other countries have borders with India. However, the borders of those countries are calm and stable. The Indian border guards do not shoot at those borders, do not kill people, do not infiltrate, and do not loot. One of the reasons why Bangladesh is an exception may be that India and the BSF do not have due respect for the sovereignty and citizens of Bangladesh. Occasional tensions, shootings, and even casualties are reported on the Pakistan border or the China border. Of course, it is never one-sided. The Indian border guards respect and fear the Pakistani or Chinese border guards. That is why BSF is always restrained and avoids conflict. There is no question of quarreling. In the case of Bangladesh, the Indian policy of not valuing Bangladesh is behind the BSF's chauvinism. As the saying goes, cats scratch their feet on soft soil.
The killing of Bangladeshis on the border is an attack on the sovereignty of Bangladesh. Had India so much respect for Bangladesh's independence and sovereignty, the BSF would never have dared to shoot at Bangladesh. In this regard, Indian authorities should give utmost importance to the issue. The border must be made peaceful and secure, and that is the last word. No more concessions can be made in this regard.
The writer is a Dhaka-based school teacher.