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Are we doing anything to stop border killings?

  • Published at 02:05 am August 9th, 2019
BSF border India Bangladesh
File photo: Members of Indian paramilitary force Border Security Force (BSF) guards the Indo-Bangla border Dhaka Tribune

According to the data provided by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 15 people were killed in 2018 along the border with India, but the death toll rose to 20 within the first six months of 2019

When the number of deaths along the Bangladesh-India border went down in 2018, it was assumed that going forward, border killings would dramatically go down. 

But in the first six months of the current year it's been proved that the hope is merely a dream that cannot be fulfilled. 

According to the data provided by Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), 15 people were killed in 2018 along the border with India, but the death toll rose to 20 within the first six months of 2019. 

The country being a friendly one, it has failed to tap opportunities  with neighbouring India, mainly due to Bangladesh's subservient foreign policy, according to experts.

An analyst who deals with international relations suggested border killings will not stop until Bangladesh manages to create a powerful and effective pressure group. 

Law enforcement finds the tendency of cattle traders and locals to make some quick cash, is largely responsible for the border killings. Visiting the bordering areas, our correspondents found families of the deceased were unwilling to talk about the issue if it would affect their easiest way of earning a living. 

Most of the killings happen when Bangladeshi traders come and go across the border to smuggle cattle into Bangladesh. 

Such incidents are mostly taking place in Khulna, Rajshahi, and Rangpur divisions, ASK said. 

Attending the 224th founding anniversary celebration of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB-1) at its headquarters in Rajshahi on June 30, its chief, Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam, confessed that cattle smuggling is the main reason behind border killings, and that it should be stopped to bring down the killings. 

A statement issued by the chief of Indian Border Security Force (BSF), just after the 48th director general (DG) level border conference this year in Dhaka, termed border killings as "unfortunate deaths."

He said his force showed the utmost patience in dealing with the border menace, but were forced to open fire to save their own lives. He said that cattle traffickers attack them with firearms. 

BGB officials deployed at the border, seeking anonymity, said they had received several complaints from the BSF that Bangladeshis who go to India to bring back cattle, sometimes try to engage BSF staff in altercations and bring some smuggled cattle along with the permitted ones in the confusion. 

According to the BGB website, more than 75,000 cattle were brought into the country this year. 

Our Chapainawabganj correspondent, quoting unnamed sources from bordering villages, reports that smugglers get Tk7000 to Tk15,000 for a pair of cows, depending on their size. A  cattle drive takes two or three days only and this quick cash lures them to engage in smuggling cattle. 

The Officers-in-Charge of various police stations in Chapainawabganj, Dinajpur, and Thakurgaon, confirmed to Dhaka Tribune that there are no cases filed against people killed along the border, for them having firearms. 

The OCs said these people are mostly cattle drivers only and are very poor.  They said there is very little chance of them carrying guns at the border. 

Dabirul Islam, MP, of Thakurgaon-2 constituency, concurred that the reasons behind most of the border deaths are related to cattle smuggling. 

He said: “Border killings will go down if an arrangement can be made to bring cattle from India through legal corridors.”

Failing to perform duties properly

Experts said border killings are not a recent phenomenon. Several promises and initiatives were made, but all remain futile, reflecting that there is unwillingness to resolve the issue. 

ASK former Executive Director Nur Khan said it is very unfortunate that the BSF staff deployed at the Bangladesh-India border seems to be more aggressive than at any other border of that country. 

They (BSF) probably consider military power as their strength, he added.

Human rights activists also said the speech given by the BSF director general showed their degree of sincerity. 

“They (BSF) say they are concerned, and at the same time they say they are forced to open fire. We demand they do not use lethal weapons, but arrest people for any irregularities found. 

"But they never pay any heed and continue to solve matters by opening fire," according to Nur Khan.

He said a political promise and implementation of the promises is needed and this is not happening properly.  

ASK senior coordinator Abul Ahmed Faizu Kabir, said if any Bangladeshi trespasses at the border they (BSF) should arrest them, not shoot them.

Age is also a factor. Most of the people killed at the borders are youths and if they were arrested, others would be discouraged to engage in cattle smuggling or other illegal activities.

“Although thousands of Bangladeshis are in Indian jails and are a burden to them, at least lives would have been saved,” he said.

Shooting at trespassers should never be the attitude of a neighboring country that is strongly considered a friend, he added. 

Rights activist, Barrister Jotirmoy Barua said, rarely does one hear of any person being killed at any border for smuggling Phensedyl from India, or Yaba from Myanmar.

"People are only being killed when smuggling cattle from India," he added. 

He said border killings continue due to the country's subservient foreign policy. 

Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka,  said when it comes to border menace, the friendly state theory would never remain applicable. 

“It's unfortunate that we never witness any initiatives by the foreign ministry to let India know what is happening at the border,” he said.

“We need to make them understand that those who are killed are not miscreants but human beings like them,” he said, adding: "As there is no real pressure from pressure groups as such, the government rarely bothers about the issue."