People especially the youths have strongly rejected the verdict in teenager Felani murder case and questioned the willingness of the Indian government in bringing down the number of killing along the border to zero.
Mainly in Facebook and blogs, people since Friday have been heavily censuring the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) for carrying out “mockery” in the name of trial of self-declared killer Amiya Ghosh, a BSF soldier, at a special court in West Bengal that began on August 13. He was acquitted because of “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him.
Some youths have launched “boycott India” campaigns in the fields of television channels and products, while many others have been blaming the ruling Awami League for its failure to compel Indian authorities to stop shooting, torture and abduction of Bangladeshis.
A number of protest rallies and human chain programmes have also been announced by individuals and youth groups regardless their political or religious identities. They term the next door neighbour “mighty India” and slam for its aggressive role along the border when the country has also failed to implement the land boundary agreement of 1974 that involves exchange of enclaves.
Reports say even Bangladeshi farmers are killed often while working in the fields near border areas. And in the case of Felani, she was neither a terrorist from India’s “seven sisters” nor a smuggler. The poor girl of 15 was returning to Bangladesh with his father “illegally” only to save money that is needed for having valid papers.
The aggrieved people call for retrial of the accused BSF member and urge the two governments to implement the “zero-killing” pledges made by the Indian prime minister and senior government officials on different occasions. Even in formal meetings between the countries’ home ministers, the Indian side assured that they would use no-lethal weapons like rubber bullets, if necessary. Strong vigil was supposed to be carried out as well as information sharing between the frontiers to curb smuggling and other offences.
Interestingly, to stop the killing of “cattle smugglers,” former BSF chief SK Bansal suggested that cattle trading be legalised since Bangladesh as a Muslim country needed thousands of cows round the year, especially during Eid. But the suggestion was ignored by the policymakers may be because the official was near his retirement.
Many people, however, protest like a ghost as they do not expect anything better from a paramilitary security force taking into consideration the instance of Rapid Action Battalion or Rab – an elite force of Bangladesh largely responsible for extrajudicial killings and torture. It claims that Rab members shoot only when they are attacked.
BSF has always pledged to stop shooting but maintained that they had to fire in retaliation to attacks by gangs, a claim dismissed by the people with conscience – individuals and rights groups – from both sides of the border, and beyond that.
Last year, during the World Cup cricket match between India and Bangladesh, several youth groups in the gallery waved banners and placards demanding a stop to border killing. The protest was widely covered by media, including Reuters.
Despite repeated protests and media reports, there has been no sign of restrain from the BSF side. However, it should be mentioned that the number of deaths is the highest along its Bangladesh border than any other part of the world.
The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has always been showing restrain; they only arrest the intruders – no matter they are insurgents, smugglers or commoners – in line with the international border law that stipulates that the border forces would arrest the offenders and try in court.
Even though the BSF has killed over a thousand people along the 4,000km border line with India on three sides, the BGB has not failed its temper. The BSF targets not only the alleged criminals but also unarmed poor Bangladeshis who cross the border.
Moreover, in this case, the apparently reluctant role of successive governments in Bangladesh is also questioned as they always sent official protests to their counterpart and the Indians sometimes said “sorry.” The responsible ministers – and at least in one instance the prime minister – defended the BSF saying that they would have to fire upon Bangladeshis for security.
The incumbent prime minister in parliament hinted that the Bangladeshis die on border for their own faults while the LGRD minister while blaming local smugglers said last year that the killings had taken place earlier, in present and would continue in future. The home minister in parliament cited several offences the Bangladeshis commit along the border because of why they are killed by the BSF.
The opposition alliance of BNP and Jamaat, better known for their anti-India ideology, too failed to curb let alone stop border killings when they were in power in 1991-06 and 2001-06.
It was for the first time the BSF initiated a trial of its member for killing Bangladeshi nationals, most of who had been cattle smugglers. In another instance last year, BSF was apparently forced to sentence its eight soldiers and an officer to around three months for torturing a Bangladeshi youth as the NDTV, an Indian news channel, broadcasted the incident taken by a mobile.
In the last eight months, news reports suggest that the number of deaths of Bangladeshi people in BSF shooting, torture and abduction stands at 21 whereas the BGB official records claim it is 14.
The United Nations last year too raised its concerns apart from other rights organisations. A delegation visited India and discussed with the government high-ups on a possible way out.