Justice for Felani still elusive

Published: 00:00, Feb 16,2020


IT HAS been nine years since India’s Border Security Force killed Felani Khatun in the Kurigram frontiers when she was crossing the border. It is generally not easy for victims of border violence to seek legal redress, but of Felani’s parents, aided by national and international rights organisations, could demand justice for their daughter. The accused Indian guard faced trials in two phases in an internal court, but he came clean in both the cases. In 2015, the victim’s father, with the help of India’s Banglar Manabadhikar Surakhsha Mancha, filed a writ petition with India’s Supreme Court demanding a CBI investigation with officers from outside West Bengal and prosecution of the offenders in accordance with the law. India’s High Court after five years on Friday posted the hearing in the case for March 18. India appears to have used legal bureaucracy to avoid shouldering responsibility for the killing while border violence has continued apace. A use of excessive force in border control casts doubts on India’s sincerity about ‘friendly relations’ with Bangladesh.

There has been a sharp increase in border death, as Ain O Salish Kendra says, as 43 Bangladeshis were either shot dead or tortured to death in 2019; the number was 14 in 2018. Media reports show that the Border Security Force killed at least 15 Bangladeshis in January this year. There are allegations against the Indian border guards of torturing Bangladeshis and delaying the handover of bodies in cases of death. All this is a violation of the internationally accepted border control protocol. Over the years, India has agreed to use non-lethal weapons to pacify violators at many meetings, but it has continued to use lethal weapons. The Bangladesh foreign minister, meanwhile, maintains that a ‘good relationship’ exists with India and advises citizens living in the frontiers to avoid engaging in cross-border cattle and other illegal trade. What the statement of the foreign minister undermines is that, under no circumstances, the Indian guards are entitled to a shoot-to-kill policy. When it was expected that Bangladesh would strongly take up the issue of border violence with India and demand investigation of all allegations of torture, Dhaka has rather taken a subservient attitude.

In the context of escalating border violence, Felani’s case carries a particular significance as it helps Bangladesh to make a point that the violation of international border control policy will not be tolerated. The government must, therefore, abandon its subservient attitude towards India, hold bilateral meetings with the sovereign interest of the nation and demand that the pending investigation of Felani’s killing is done impartially. The conscientious section of society, both in Bangladesh and India, must also mobilise against border death and demand justice for Felani and other victims of border violence.

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