Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lethal Weapon Or Not, BSF Continue Killing

The Indian border guards continue to kill unarmed Bangladeshi civilians in the border regions of the country. According to a report published on the front page of New Age on Monday, a 32-year old Bangladeshi cattle trader, Rafiqul Islam, was killed at the hands of the BSF on Sunday at the Burimari border. What is noteworthy in the incident is that, following an agreement on the use of ‘non-lethal weapons’ along the border of the two countries, signed by respective chiefs of BSF and Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) in March this year, the BSF has now resorted to medieval tactic of killing Bangladeshis, by stoning them, stabbing them, hitting them with rifle butts or running speeding boats over them. Furthermore, there seems to have appeared a pattern of sending out a message of defiance, in the conduct of BSF authorities, in that every time a politically important event between the two countries takes place, the BSF resorts to slaying unarmed Bangladeshis. On January 13, 2010, the day the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina and Indian premier Dr Manmohan Singh issued a joint communiqué during Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, which also included mention of border killings and the need to ‘exercise restraint’, Shafiqul Islam (27), a Bangladeshi cattle-trader, was stabbed to death by members of the BSF, near the Satkhira border, his body dumped into the Kalindi River. Rafiqul, meanwhile, was killed on the same day Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi arrived in Dhaka. While the political authorities in India have time and again tried to appear sympathetic and expressed concern over border killings, it appears, a section of its establishment, is bent on conveying a different message.
According to the report published in New Age, Rafiq was caught by BSF troops when he was returning to Bangladesh with six other cattle traders, and beaten to death, and dumped into River Saniyazan, near Burimari border in Lalmonirhat. Two days earlier, only on July 22, BSF members dragged Selim Hossain (25), a young Bangladeshi farmer, from his paddy field near a border pillar, to the Indian side, and beat him with a rifle butt as he resisted. His body was found an hour later hanging from a barbed-wire fence. On June 30, Mizanur Rahman (25), was beaten to death by the BSF in exactly similar circumstances to that of Rafiq, at the Burimari border.

According to rights organisation Odhikar, 35 Bangladeshis have been killed by the BSF, since January to June of this year. It suffices to say that the Indian authorities have completely missed the point of an agreement on the use of non-lethal weapons. It seems the Indian authorities are little interested in either stopping the killing of unarmed Bangladeshis or to keep the Indo-Bangladesh border peaceful. Instead, the agreement is so far being honoured on technical grounds, completely ignoring the spirit of its content. Only the Indian authorities know best what purpose it serves to continue to exert undue lethal force on Bangladeshi civilians, when the government of the countries regularly stress on building ‘long-lasting ties’.

Killing of unarmed Bangladeshis by the BSF has been an issue plaguing relations between the two countries for long, antagonising a large section of the Bangladeshi population towards the entire Indian political establishment. By alternating the use of lethal weapons with the use of non-lethal ones to nonetheless cause lethal injury, the Indian authorities are not just making a mockery of Bangladesh’s genuine grievances, but setting up the platform for more antagonism. It is time the Indian establishment realised how detrimental such actions and behaviours are to ‘friendly ties’ and take steps to reign in elements within its establishment who are prompt at sending out defiant messages.