Barbed wires of death

Mahfuzul Haque writes about the most recent cases of border violence across the India-Bangladesh border

09Like every other day, on February 2 of this year, Nazrul Islam, a farmer of Chapra village of Birampur upazila in Dinajpur, was working at his paddy field with others near the barbed-wire fence between Bangladesh and India. At around 10:00am, his wife Palashi Begum brought breakfast for him.
While Islam and other farmers were preparing to have their breakfast, some Indian Border Security Force (BSF) members came inside the Bangladesh territory and pointed rifles at them. All of them froze in fear.  When Islam asked why the BSF members had entered into the territory of Bangladesh, a BSF member shot him in the chest. Islam died on the spot.
Palashi Begum narrates the hair-raising account of BSF atrocity as she had witnessed the killing of her husband along with others. The BSF members then took Islam’s dead body to the Indian end and handed it over the body to BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) the next day. BSF members also shot another farmer Shahajul Islam who fortunately survived.
More than a week later during the early hours of February 11, two Bangladeshi cattle traders Aminur Rahman (35) and Khoyjul Hossain (40) were shot dead on Jadobpur border in Moheshpur upazila of Jhenidah. They were among a group of people who had gone to India to smuggle cattle into Bangladesh. They fell prey to the shots of BSF members while returning to Bangladesh with cattle.
On the morning of April 11, BSF members opened fire on some Bangladeshis near the border at Dowlatpur area of Benapole in Jessore. Aku (25) and Shanto (40) died during that incident while three others were injured due to gunshots.
Border violence remains a matter of concern in the bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries as Bangladeshis, often cattle traders or innocent farmers, become victims of the border violence.
According to the statistics of Odhikar, a Dhaka-based rights body, 3,897 Bangladeshis became victims of border violence between 2000 and 2014. In that period, some 1,035 Bangladeshis were killed by BSF, 919 were tortured, and 1,274 persons were abducted.
In 2014, BSF killed 35 Bangladeshis, tortured 68, and abducted 99 others.
The statistics of Ain o Salish Kendra, another local rights body, show that 82 Bangladeshis fell victim to border violence between January and March in 2015. During the first three months of this year, BSF has already killed nine people, tortured 22 and abducted 33.

Border violence remains an unresolved issue between the countries who share a 4,000-kilometre long international border, the fifth longest land border in the world.
Although the issue of border violence gets highligted during the bilateral talks between Bangladesh and India, the crisis has hardly seen much improvement over the years. During the visit of the former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in Bangladesh in 2011, the Indian premiere had assured Bangladesh that border violence will be curbed.
Rights activists say that the passive role of Bangladesh authorities toward border atrocities has helped to establish a sense of impunity for Indian security forces, thus creating a space for more such violence.
Border violence has become a routine phenomenon across border areas where innocent Bangladeshis are being killed, tortured, and abducted by the Indian security forces, observes ASM Nasiruddin Elan, director of Odhikar. ‘This should be the main topic of discussion during the bilateral meetings, but unfortunately the Bangladeshi government does not pay adequate attention to the issue,’ Elan says.
The killing of Felani by the Indian security force in 2011 raised severe international criticisms. The 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl was shot dead while trying to come to Bangladesh by climbing the barbed-wire boundary using a ladder.
Later in 2012, Indian home minister ordered BSF not to use lethal weapons in the border area. But the instruction remains in words with severe human rights violation occuring daily, Elan says.
After the killing of two Bangladeshis near border at Dowlatpur of Benapole, foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told reporters that Bangladesh has raised the concern at the appropriate level of India. ‘We hope India will take measures,’ he said.
Another rights activist says that the Bangladeshi cattle traders often fall victims to border violence; when they cross border with cattle the BSF members shoot them. So, the two countries should try to come up with a strategy that can institutionalise cattle trading.
Delowar Hossain, professor of international department at the University of Dhaka, says border killing has been a major concern between the two countries for decades. Bangladesh needs to press the issue with utmost importance to the Indian government to resolve the long-standing problem, he adds. .

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