Monday, December 26, 2011

Fool’s paradise of weighty Indian assurances

Dr. Gawhar Rizvi, our Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign relations, has preferred to publicly teach the civil society ‘malcontents’ of Bangladesh some lessons in statesmanship and diplomatic good conduct. In an article published in a leading Bengali daily, December 13 issue, Dr. Rizvi said that in international relations, when the Prime Minister (chief executive) of a country gives an assurance, it is to be treated as a firm commitment of that state and one should not underestimate the force of that assurance. He was referring to the assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh in bilateral meetings in 2009 (Sharm-el-Sheikh), 2010 (Delhi) and 2011 (Dhaka) that in the implementation of Tipaimukh project, India will ensure that no harm is done to Bangladesh.

Interestingly, in all the three meetings referred to by Dr. Rizvi, particularly in the last two, Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh gave specific assurances that steps would be taken by the Government of India to discipline Indian Border Security Forces at Indo-Bangladesh borders, with clear instructions not to shoot at (except in self-defence) Bangladeshi traffic (legal or illegal). To pursue a fugitive, generally non-lethal weapons would be used, and in case firearms were used, the purpose would be to shoot at the fugitive’s legs to render him immobile, not to kill him.

In practice, through 2009, 2010 and 2011, BSF carried on its killing spree at the land borders of Bangladesh as a matter of state policy in a manner that gave the clear message that Bangladesh must bow to Indian power and allow the BSF to freely conduct “security operations” by terrorising the border population, so that no one dares to give “sanctuary” to any “suspect” in Indian eyes. 

Strangely enough, there has been no respite in border killings even during the week of celebrations of Victory Day in Bangladesh (also by the Indian military) when these was so much of ceremonial camaraderie in official and quasi-official events by and between the two neighbours.

The Indian Border Security Force shot four Bangladeshis dead in the frontier districts of Kurigram, Dinajpur and Meherpur on the Victory Day and the day after (16th and 17th December) in a latest spate of killings, despite repeated assurances by New Delhi not to open fire on unarmed civilians at the borders.

BSF personnel at Narayanganj camp in Cochbihar district killed Alamgir Hossain, (25), on Garakmandal border in Phulbari upazila (Kurigram) at about 6:00am, December 17. The victim was shot near the international pillar 930. He died on way to Phulbari upazila health complex. Tension has been prevailing in the area after the incident with both BSF and BGB intensifying patrol along the border.

In Dinajpur, two youths, Matiar Rahman, 20, and Tajul Islam, 26, were killed in BSF firing on the Katla border in Birampur upazila at about 1:00am on December 17.

BSF troops fired four shots targeting a group of Bangladeshi villagers when they allegedly tried to cross the border at Katla, leaving Matiar and Tajul critically injured.

The BSF personnel took away the bodies. On demand by our Border Guard, the BSF promised to return the bodies after as meeting the same day, but did not do so until late into the evening.

At the Meherpur border, BSF shot dead Naharul Islam, 40, in Shewratala frontier area of Gangni upazila at around 7:30pm on December 16.
They dragged the body into Indian territory and handed it over to Murutia police station in West Bengal. BGB battalion commander in the area wrote to the BSF authorities demanding immediate return of the body.

The BSF killed at least 30 Bangladeshis, injured 58 and abducted 20 in the frontiers this year, according to rights groups. Indian security force killed at least 33 Bangladeshis and injured 67 others last year along the borders. In 2009, the BSF killed 36 Bangladeshis, 47 in 2008, in 2007 the number was 33, in 2006 they killed 62 Bangladeshis and 104 in 2005.

Amongst many abducted persons this year, most were only released after protests and flag meetings demanded by the BGB.

Following up on the Indian Prime Minister’s ‘assurance’, the Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram assured Bangladesh, in a conference in Dhaka on July 30, that their border forces would not shoot any unarmed civilians under any circumstance: “Let me make it very clear…we have issued strict instructions to our border security forces that under no circumstances should they fire upon anyone trying to cross from either Bangladesh to India or India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the last jawan,” he said at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatun in Dhaka.

After the Victory Day period incidents, Dhaka newspapers quoted our foreign ministry officials saying that Dhaka had lodged a strong protest with the Indian authorities on December 18 condemning the killings of Bangladesh nationals by the Indian Border Security Force, in Dinajpur and Meherpur, and body-snatching in Kurigram. The government had also expressed disappointment that such killings took place despite firm assurances from the highest level of the Indian government against recurrence of such killings of Bangladesh nationals by BSF. The government urged India to conduct an inquiry into the incident and take necessary steps to stop further killings. The Foreign Ministry protest note described the killings incidents as heinous, and demanded actions against the BSF personnel responsible for the killings.

Newspapers also quoted a senior home ministry official who said, “Bangladesh has been pressing India to stop firing at the borders. Dhaka has raised the issue at almost every bilateral meeting and the Indian side has assured us of taking steps in this regard. But nothing really happens in practice as the killing continues.”

Earlier on December 16 at Fulbari border of Kurigram, one Anwar Hossain (27) was killed and another Mohar Ali (25) was wounded by grenade throwing from a BSF post. In cartoon publication, a witty commentator remarked that since the Indian Home Minister’s clear instructions had “gone down to the last jawan” that guns must not be fired to persecute Bangladeshis at the border, the BSF was now throwing hand grenades instead of shooting to kill.

It took four flag meetings at Kurigram to recover the two dead bodies taken away by BSF. In Sylhet border at Jaintapur on December 18, one Badsha Mia (28) was abducted, from inside Bangladesh territory, by armed Khasia groups at the behest of BSF. The victim was tortured, killed, and thrown back at a border spot inside Bangladesh territory. Using armed border gangs to kidnap Bangladeshis seems to be another terrorising tactics employed by BSF to elicit servile “cooperation” of Bangladeshi inhabitants along the 4165 kilometre-long land borders between India and Bangladesh.

So much for “firm commitments” by way of verbal assurance of the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian Home Minister’s “strict instructions.”

 BY :  Sadeq Khan.