It is finally out in the open. On Wednesday, the Border Security Force director general said it aloud: ‘Firing in border can never be stopped totally’ because ‘criminal activities continue to take place along the Indo-Bangladesh border and the BSF will have to prevent those offences.’ Of course, the ‘criminal activities’ he refers to largely involves illegal cattle trade carried out by unarmed villagers or Bangladeshis — men, women and children anywhere between the ages of four to 70 — illegally immigrating to India, judging by the identity of the 935 Bangladeshis killed by the Indian border guards since 2000. It appears to escape the BSF chief that there are various forms of law enforcement such as arrest, detention, trial in a court of law to contain such ‘criminal activities’, that both the BSF and the Border Guards Bangladesh can avail, if and when necessary. In fact, shooting at unarmed civilians, criminals or otherwise, by law enforcement officials, essentially translates to ‘extrajudicial killings.’ And then of course, over the last few months they have been doing a lot less shooting and a lot more stoning, beating and torture, which translate into heinous forms of human rights violation, something which has left even the conscious-sections of the Indian citizenry enraged. With one instance of the torture recently caught on video, it seems the BSF chief has made an official announcement to revert back to old ways of ‘target practice’ on cattle traders ahead of the more cumbersome and potentially embarrassing ‘torture to death’.
What is more dangerous is that the words of an Indian bureaucrat seems to have virtually negated the assurances made by the Indian home minister, no more than eight months back, ‘that BSF would no longer shoot at civilians under any circumstances.’ It also pours cold water on the words, penned down by the Indian premier and Bangladeshi prime minister, to ‘exercise restraint’, in the joint communiqué issued during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in 2010. Finally, it contradicts an agreement on the use of ‘non-lethal weapons’ along the border of the two countries, signed by none other than the BSF chief himself, with his Bangladeshi counterpart. The Indian political establishment indeed owes an explanation to their ‘friendly neighbours’ as to who exactly calls the shots in India.
Why we say it is out in the open is simply because border killings of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians have never rally stopped irrespective of whichever level of the Indian government the assurances came from.
Bangladeshis were killed by the BSF on the same day the joint communiqué between Hasina and Manmohan was made public, on the day Sonia Gandhi arrived in Dhaka and on the day Manmohan arrived in Dhaka. Ever since the signing of the agreement on the use of non-lethal weapons, Bangladeshis have been killed by stoning, by beating and by running speedboats over them. What the BSF chief’s words do is make it clear that it is indeed a veritable policy decision of the Indian government to intimidate Bangladeshis along the border by rampantly shooting at them, and that there are clearly no plans to honour the words, agreements, or assurances provided by the highest level of Indian government.
In recent times, various sections of the international media and human rights groups have woken up to the horrors committed by the BSF on unarmed Bangladeshis and the Bangladesh-India border has been described as the ‘wall of death’, ‘Berlin Wall of Asia etc. To that, one may add, that the Indian government has decided to adopt the policies reminiscent of Zionist Israel towards their Arab neighbours — towards their apparently ‘friendly neighbours’ from whom they so urgently seek ‘transit’ facilities. It is time the Bangladesh government woke up from their stand of ‘not very worried’ about border killings, as the LGRD and cooperatives minister said only recently, and got very, very worried.