It is indeed a matter of serious concern that India-Bangladesh borders remain as dangerous as ever, courtesy of the persistent violence being perpetrated by the Indian border guards, Border Security Forces, despite a number of top level initiatives from both countries and assurances from the highest level of government in India. If reports in the last few days are anything to go by, the situation along the border appears to have worsened. On Saturday, the BSF shot dead a Bangladeshi and injured three others along the Benapole border. On Friday, Indian smugglers abducted a Bangladesh Border Guards havilder and a flag meeting between BGB and BSF failed to secure his return. He was however returned early Saturday after intervention of the highest level of officials. On Thursday, the Bangladesh government formally protested the inhuman torture of Bangladeshi national Habibur Rahman who was brutally tortured by Indian border guards at Mairashi camp in Murshidabad for failing to pay Tk 2,000 in bribe. Worryingly, according to a report published in New Age on Saturday, an Indian human rights group alleged that the Indian government was putting pressure on the Bangladeshi authorities to make Habibur Rahman change his statement. Bear in mind, last year, in March, the BGB and BSF chief signed an agreement on the use of non-lethal weapons along the Indo-Bangladesh border, while the Indian prime minister, through the joint communiqué published after the visit of the Bangladeshi prime minister to Delhi in February 2010, had provided assurances on stopping extra-judicial killings of unarmed Bangladeshis along the border. In May last year, the Indian home minister further reiterated India’s assurance on the issue. Given the prevailing situation, time has come to seriously question the commitment of the Indian government and its authorities to address the issue of the killing and torture of Bangladeshis along the border, something which is not just a cause of serious grievance and injury, but also an ‘insult’ to the notion of friendly relations, for the people of Bangladesh.
While the government of Bangladesh and India over the last two years worked towards forging stronger ties, it is indeed noteworthy that during every single major diplomatic and political event between the two countries – be it Hasina’s visit to Delhi, Sonia Gandhi’s and Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka – the BSF resorted to killing Bangladeshi nationals along the borders. One would not be mistaken in interpreting a ‘message’ in the timings of the killings. Moreover, the use of non-lethal weapons along the borders seems to have turned into a curse for Bangladeshis, as BSF has now resorted to medieval forms of killing such as stoning, beating, hacking, torture and running speed boats over victims. Now, if it is indeed true that the Indian government is trying to make the Bangladeshi authorities to make the victim change his statement, then the ‘message’ from India becomes all the more clearer.
At a juncture when the many parts of the world, including the Indian media and human rights groups, are waking up to the atrocities of BSF on Bangladeshis, the Bangladeshi government would well-advised to revisit their relations with the big neighbour, to revisit the pledges to India they are too eager to deliver on so far, to refrain from trying to protect India’s interest ahead of Bangladesh’s, for example, by trying to change the victim’s statement, and make India diplomatically accountable for failing to respect the rights of Bangladeshi citizens.