Saturday, February 4, 2012

BSF’s brutalities spark outcry in Indian media, NHRC: AL Govt is mute

The primary responsibility of the State is to ensure security for its citizens. But the Bangladesh ruling party political leaders have ignored this basic duty of the Government. Maybe they have forgotten which country they belong to.

The statement has got some relevance particularly when Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam or Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs A H Mahmood Ali say in unison that the State has nothing to do with the torture and killing of unarmed Bangladeshi citizens by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) along the international border.

Son of a noted political leader, Syed Ashraful Islam said last week, “The state is not worried about incidents at the border. These are everyday incidents; these have happened in the past, are happening now and will happen in future.”

Similar was the statement of A H Mahmood Ali, a freedom fighter diplomat turned politician.

The Hindu’s editorial
It is unfortunate for Bangladesh that her ruling leaders are not ashamed of their role even when an influential Indian newspaper, The Hindu, in its editorial asked Indian government to make an “unreserved apology to Bangladesh for BSF brutality on Bangladeshi citizens” as vividly shown on the television.

The NDTV and other Indian TV channels had aired the video showing the Bangladeshi national Habibur Rahman being assaulted by BSF men a week after the incident took place near India-Bangladesh border in Paschimbanga‘s Murshidabad district.

According to another report published in Bangladesh dailies, a cattle trader, allegedly picked up by BSF on January 4, was found dead in the Padma River on Tuesday.

Locals found the body of Saddam Hossain alias Babu, 22, son of Mortuza Hossain of Tarapur-Panditpara village in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj and informed his family members. Hossain’s hands and legs were tied when local people found his body.

Hossain went to India with eight other cattle traders to buy cattle through Shingnagar frontier under Shibganj upazila but did not return, said Abdus Salam, officer-in-charge of Shibganj Police Station, quoting locals and relatives of the deceased.

Police sent the body to Chapainawabganj Sadar Hospital for an autopsy. Police or Sadar hospital may keep silent with the body since killings on the border or within the country happens every now and then and the “state should not be worried about this”, as Syed Ashraf remarked.

Mukherjee’s comment
However, outraged by the brutal act of BSF, leading Indian newspaper The Hindu pointed out that the remark by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the incident must not be hyped, echoed by a Bangladeshi Minister, seems only to have provoked more anger and fuelled opposition allegations against the Sheikh Hasina government for being “pro-India”.

The Hindu warned, “… New Delhi needs to guard against becoming an unwitting cause for political instability in its eastern neighbour. Anti-India sentiment has been high in Bangladesh since the killing of three of its nationals by the BSF in two separate incidents on the border last month,” the daily noted.

Pointing out that “a March 2011 agreement between the two countries not to use firearms in dealing with illegal activities on the border has brought down the number of such incidents,” it said “but the video is evidence that the guards feel free to use other forms of violence. It underlines the fact that such bilateral agreements on the management of their complex boundary are worth nothing unless accompanied by a change in the mindset of those responsible for it on the ground.”

YouTube video, NHRC’s suo moto
“The distressing 11.56 minute footage, circulated through YouTube, is quite evidently a trophy video, the guards happy to pose as they strip their victim, tie his hands and feet, and beat him mercilessly while discussing among themselves other severe options of dealing with him. The man was a suspected rustler — the border is notorious for cattle smuggling — and it has been alleged by rights activists in Bangladesh that the guards were punishing him for not paying them a bribe.”

India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday served notice on that country’s Home Ministry, seeking a report on the BSF jawans who had been taped assaulting a Bangladeshi youth near the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Taking suo moto cognizance of a news report, the NHRC asked the home affairs secretary to turn in a report in four weeks on the merciless thrashing of the Bangladeshi man by BSF personnel.

“The commission has observed that the contents of press reports, if true, raise a serious issue of a violation of the human rights of the victim,” the NHRC said in a statement issued last week.

Civil society is mute
When Indian media and the human rights organisations raised hue and cry to condemn BSF torture on Bangladeshi citizens, calling it a “gross violation of human rights”, leaders of the ruling Awami League (AL) show total disregard to their motherland.

What happened to our intellectuals, the civil society or the innumerable socio-political groups? Have they lost their voice to protest?

The dead body of poor Falani, a 15-year old girl, Kurigram, that hung  from the barbed wire fencing along Kurigram border last year, or the stripping and inhumane beating of a Bangladeshi youth at Murshidabad border—shamefully—failed to arouse their conscience.

When the political leadership does not recongnise it as the prime responsibility to protect the security of the citizens, the people can only pity them.