The Indian Border Security Force made yet another promise on Friday to ‘reduce significantly’ the killing of Bangladeshi nationals at the border after the Border Guard Bangladesh expressed its grave concerns over the rise in the number of deaths and injured in 2020 compared with the past few years.
In a joint record of discussion signed on Friday amid the five-day director general-level talks held in Indian city Guwahati, BSF director general Rakesh Asthana assured that ‘the death incidents in the border area will be made to reduce significantly in near future’.
Ten Bangladeshis were killed after BSF director general Rakesh Asthana on September 19 had made a promise to bring it down to zero.
This year, Bangladesh so far witnessed the highest number of killings of its nationals along the border by the BSF in the past 10 years.
The number of Bangladeshis killed between January 22 and December 22 of the current year stood at 46 while the number of deaths was 35 in 2019 and only three in 2018, according to the government statistics.
In the joint statement, BGB director general Major General Md Shafeenul Islam expressed his ‘grave concern’ over the killings, injuring and beating of unarmed Bangladeshi nationals by the BSF and their nationals in the bordering areas.
‘People of Bangladesh always appreciate the existing excellent relationship between the two border guarding forces and expect that the BGB and the BSF will take necessary measures to bring down the death cases down to zero,’ he said, according to the joint statement.
The BGB chief further urged his counterpart to uphold human rights and make all-out efforts to apprehend the criminals and bring them under the law of the land instead of killing them.
Iterating the need for joint efforts to uphold human rights and curb violence on the border, both sides agreed to conduct joint night patrols in vulnerable areas along the border as a more effective initiative to ensure zero death, the joint statement read.
Both sides also agreed to take precautionary measures along the border by increasing coordinated patrols, including intensifying public awareness programmes, undertaking appropriate socioeconomic developmental programmes in vulnerable areas and real time information sharing.
BGB chief Major General Md Shafeenul Islam led 11-member Bangladeshi delegation in the 51st director general-level border conference in Guwahati in Indian state of Assam with 12-member BSF delegation led by their director general Rakesh Asthana.
The conference would conclude on Saturday formally.
This is the second time in recent years when a Bangladeshi was killed in the midst of the border talks between the chiefs of bordering forces.
The Bangladesh border guard chief also expressed his concern that Indian nationals and BSF personnel often enter Bangladesh violating the existing rules.
He sought cooperation from the BSF to uphold the existing friendly relationship between the border guarding forces.
The joint statement read that both sides agreed to continue to sensitise the border populace to refrain from illegal crossing or violations and at the same time assured maintenance of the sanctity of the border by the members of both forces.
BGB chief also voiced his concern over the presence Bangladeshi armed miscreants belonging to a number of regional parties of the Chattogram Hill Tracts in hideouts in the Indian state of Mizoram and requested their dissolution.
BSF chief assured their counterpart of appropriate action against those hideouts, if found.
BGB chief also expressed his concern over the smuggling of various types of drugs and narcotics, especially Yaba tablets as well as firearms, gold and cattle, among others, and sought cooperation from the BSF to prevent the menace.
According to the home ministry index in 2019, the number of border killings by the BSF was 66 in 2009, 55 in 2010, 24 each in 2011 and 2012, 18 in 2013, 24 again in 2014, 38 in 2015, 25 in 2016, 17 in 2017 and only three in 2018.
Border killings started coming down since 2011 but the number rose again in 2019 when 41 people were killed by the force, almost four times the fatalities in 2018 when 11 such killings took place, according to data shared by rights group Odhikar.
At least 1,185 Bangladeshis were killed by the BSF along the border between 2000 and 2019, according to Odhikar data.
After the BSF chief’s September 19 promise to bring down the number of border killings to zero, newly appointed Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami on October 8 also told reporters in Dhaka that reducing the number of border killings to zero would be among his priorities.
In the 48th BGB-BSF summit conference in Dhaka in June 2019, the then BSF chief, Rajani Kant Misra, termed these killings as unfortunate, promising to bring down such killings to zero.
Similar pledges were made by the Indian side also in 2018 and 2017 border conferences.
A joint declaration between Bangladesh and India during the visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh on June 7, 2015, read that both prime ministers — Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi — iterated that the number of deaths along the border must be brought down to zero and directed the authorities concerned and the border forces to work to that effect.
A joint statement issued on September 7, 2011, over the visit of the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to Dhaka also decided to prevent the loss of lives along the border.
Bangladesh shares a 4,156-kilometre-long border with five Indian states.
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