BSF-Bangladesh: A hate story
Bangladesh and India, two South Asian neighbors on surface share the most possible friendly relationship till date, yet sharing one of the deadliest borders in the world. This is certainly a curious case when the two governments boast of the remarkable friendship existing between them. In fact in 1971, Bangladesh, the erstwhile East Pakistan earned its independence from Pakistan by means of an armed struggle with active assistance of the giant South Asian neighbor and arch foe of Pakistan.
The toll of Bangladeshis has been humongous. According to Odhikar (an NGO based in Bangladesh) study, during the period from January 2000 to February 2017, 1112 people were killed by BSF, another 1027 people were left injured. Most recently on June 20, 2017 morning, 2 Bangladeshi teenagers were gunned down at Bangladeshi border by BSF. This might raise your eyebrows since the countries are at peace, and according to the respective governments, passing the best times in their relationship.
What is worse that on majority of occasions, the killings were in cold blood against unarmed and defenseless local villagers. To make it more horrific, some Indian officials endorse shooting people who attempt to cross the border illegally, even if they are unarmed. It is as shocking as the lack of interest in this meaningless trigger happiness of a border patrol force by many foreign governments who claim to be very much concerned with human rights. The gross violation of human rights by Indian forces is also very much endemic in Kashmir, as disclosed in WikiLeaks cables. That report suggests to the natural course of trigger happiness of BSF across Bangladesh border.
The tragic root of the continuous death parade in the India Bangladesh border dates back to 1947, when the border line drawn by Durand left hundreds of thousands of Bengalis separated across the borders. On many occasions many people cross borders illegally to meet dear and near ones. Smuggling of goods and drugs is also rampant across the borders and alleged corruption among border officials makes the smuggling almost unnoticeable, while unarmed villagers often going near the border mistakenly while rearing cattle or working in paddy fields ending up losing lives.
The sentiment of Bangladeshi people was hit hard on January 7, 2011; when a fifteen year old Bangladeshi girl named Felani was shot dead by BSF. An image of Felani’s body hanging over a barbed fence sparked widespread condemnation both inside and outside the border, and since then became a symbol of BSF’s image of brutality among Bangladeshi people. Facing unprecedented public outrage, BSF had to arrange trial for the killing twice, only to acquit the shooter of Felani on both occasions. Rights activists in Bangladesh claimed the move as “disrespect to international law”. Prior to holding of the trial, BSF never before held any trial for such killings, which depicts the magnitude of public outcry that was created due to Felani’s killing.
The protest against continuous border atrocities by BSF often crossed diplomatic channel, when on 2012, Bangladeshi hackers engaged with Indian hackers in a “cyber war” to protest BSF killings of Bangladeshis. As a result of Bangladeshi cyber attacks, several thousands of Indian websites, including large business corporations and national service providers were affected.
Under repeated demands from Bangladeshi authorities, the BSF pledged to shed its shoot to kill habit and use non lethal weapons during border patrol, but stories from the ground raises serious doubt among the observers about the sincerity behind the pledge of BSF.
India is always eager to build up a close relationship with Bangladesh since its birth, but sometimes going too far and ending up in interfering in Bangladesh’s affairs. The people of Bangladesh often look at India with distrust and dismay when question of interference in Bangladeshi politics, unilateral withdrawal of water from common rivers in absence of deal and trigger happy BSF, Bangladeshi social media users often engage in India bashing whenever any occasion comes, which is unhealthy for India-Bangladesh friendship. In order to build up a concrete and solid relationship with Bangladesh, there is no alternative for a people-to-people network. Unresolved issues like relentless border killings by BSF will only make India’s goal to create a positive people-to-people network impossible. Routinely shooting unarmed poor Bangladeshi villagers is a pathetic way of showing friendship to an all weather neighbor by the world’s largest democracy and aspiring global power.