THE death of Bangladeshi civilians in the frontiers at the hands of India’s Border Security Force, which has happened for decades and has increased in recent times, as New Age reported on Saturday, has been an issue which has not changed for the better despite the concern that Dhaka has taken up with new Delhi and amidst the noise that conscientious sections of people of both Bangladesh and India have made against such happening. Even India’s rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha has said that death in the frontiers continues as the Indian border guards keep enjoying impunity and power without any accountability and checks, as the group’s secretary is reported to have said. It says that the Indian guards run a campaign of systematic killing and torture, making the border into what is often described as the ‘wall of death’. At least 25 Bangladeshi civilians are reported to have died at the hands of the Indian guards in six months till July, as a report of the Bangladeshi rights group Odhikhar says. Indian guards killed two more Bangladeshis in the first week of July. Border death started declining in 2011, but it increased again, as Odhikar statistics show, in 2019, with 41 people having been killed by the Indian guards; this is almost four times the figure of 2018, when 11 were killed.
Odhikar statistics further show that the Indian guards have killed 1,185 Bangladeshis in the frontiers since 2000. Indian authorities claim that border death takes place when the guards run operation against irregular movement of people and smuggling, especially the smuggling of the head of cattle. But the Indian rights group seeks to differ, noting that the aggressive approach that the Indian guards show has a lot to do with caste, religion and other social aspects of victims and the impact becomes severe when a right-wing government assumes office in India. About 2.3 million head of cattle entered Bangladesh before Eid-ul-Fitr in 2013, as Bangladesh Border Guard statistics say, but only 92,000 head of cattle entered Bangladesh before Eid in 2019, yet border death has not stopped. Bangladesh border authorities say that they are trying to improve on the livelihood of people living in the frontiers so that they do not need to fetch cattle head from India. Yet, India has never stopped using lethal weapons in the frontiers despite repeated assurances that it earlier gave to use non-lethal weapons. India is reported to use non-lethal weapons in its border with China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan but for Bangladesh and Pakistan, where it uses lethal weapons. Experts believe that the high-handedness of the Indian guards stems from their thinking that Bangladesh’s border security management is ‘soft’ and ‘weak’ which has prompted India to become aggressive.
All this suggests that dealing in the issue of border death entails earnestness, grounded in the required political will, on part of both Dhaka and New Delhi, which is missing. Justice in the murder of Felani, whom Indian guards shot dead in the Kurigram frontiers on January 7, 2011, having not been resolved appears to have encouraged the Indian guards. Dhaka must, therefore, take up the issue boldly with New Delhi and have it in discussion in regional and international forum to effect an end to the death of Bangladeshis by Indian guards.
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