Monday, January 23, 2012

Borders Of Blood

Apparently they fire “criminals violating border norms”, said the BSF DG in 2010.

These incidents are normal, happen all the time and the state has no serious concern about this, says the LGRD minister of the ruling party.

These incidents should not be “hyped” by media, says the Indian Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee in India.

Possibly Bangladesh is the only country where lives have lesser value tags attached to them when compared to the value of the cattle crossing the border. Possibly Bangladesh is the only country where the powerful need to be protected and the powerless killed in order to maintain a balance of survival.

In the border areas, there seems to be a complete impertinence to life and norms. Cattle trade being illegal in India, almost 20000 cows are herded and sold from Punjab, Bihar and Haryana to Bangladesh through Murshidabad alone. Caught up in the game of the brokers (dalals), and the owner (ghatiyal), the labourer (rakhal) is the one who profits the least and gets hit the most. The brokers comprise of all shapes and sizes, starting from BSF, police and custom officials’ category. They are known as the “Commission”. When cows are at times caught on the border, they are often sold back to the owner at a higher price instead of a legal auction.

The 2216 kilometres of India’s borders with Bangladesh are death traps for Bangladeshis today. Rakhals carry blue and yellow chits with different symbols drawn on them indicating that they have a “passport” to pass through the borders. They are safe, meaning that both police and customs have received their fair share.

In spite of all that open knowledge, I don’t know how any Bangladeshi minister can show indifference to murder; I don’t know why the political parties don’t invest on a BSF march instead of Tipaimukh, Teesta and many others that we watch these days.

With Odhikar’s figure of slain Bangladeshis standing at a 39 and Ain-o-Shalish Kendro’s at a 31 in 2011 alone, how can the BSF bullets be justified by citing irrelevant examples of drug and cattle smuggling? Mr. Syed Ashraful Islam, how can illegal trade cost life? If so, how come the biggest scoundrels and smugglers of Bangladesh still ride on their SUVs and befriend political parties and eventually even become part of them and get elected in the process? What systems are we subscribing to, Mr. Islam? Are we applying for permanent positions in the club of the corrupt and blind? And will you take responsibility of your statement of the government “not being worried”?

I was speaking to a bright, young girl yesterday who had organised a lot of young voter movements during the last elections. Hurt and distraught, she sat in front of me, talking about the 22-year-old Rasheduzzaman from Sharsha Upazila who was shot dead by the BSF just the other day. I had no words to restore her faith in democratic process that often breeds monsters in place of responsible lawmakers.

How could BSF, within a few days after the Indian media had just aired the scenes of gruesome torture of a Bangladeshi youth, repeat the same act? To the best of my knowledge, BSF cannot claim impunity and can only fire in self-defence. Are we really expected to believe that the illegal traders have more strength than the ‘border beasts’ that kill them in retaliation?

I humbly suggest that we put up a wall etching the names of the fallen at the hands of the BSF at a significant point in Dhaka. Let this memorial wall be erected somewhere near our diplomatic zone where every diplomat crossing the installation will take time and reflect on the hurt that the citizens of this country suffer because of Indian insensitivities and aggression.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I didn’t even have nightmares. I simply stayed awake thinking of the families who lost their children to BSF. I also played out scenes in my head reflecting the torture that is no less than the Americans torturing at Abu Ghraib, no less than the British torturing the Iraqis, and no less than the Pakistanis raping us in 1971. If we could once, as a nation, come together and fight against atrocities, let us not falter and fail our conscience today.

Let us carefully reflect on the reality: while the lions in the borders roar, how and why should we grant access to the same people behind the lines waiting to access our transit points? They need to control their beasts first before wanting a substantial share of our resources. Should that not be the case, after all?

While teenagers like the 14-year-old Jinnah wanting a little more money for their pockets get into deals with the traders on the borders, carry out their missions and earn as less as Tk 2000.00 per crossing, and while they save as much as Tk 6000.00 in three trips and buy jeans and a mobile phone storing at least 200 songs, including hits like “Paglu”, who should we blame when they receive bullets piercing through their necks, exiting through their backs?

Is it illegal trading or our own insensitivities that grant audacity to our big brother in the block?

BY :  Rubana Huq.