BANGLADESH. Chattogram. Indo-Bangla border killings are happening everyday. Although the formal process of handing over the bodies through flag meetings is supposed to stop the killings, it rarely happens that way. Indo-Bangla relations have always been friendly, and although the two countries have pledged to stop border killings, the rates of death continue to remain high. The Border Security Force are trained not only to wield weapons, but it appears that they also need to be trained in human rights.
Gautam Lahiri, an Indo-Bangla relations expert and Former President Press Club of India , has spoken about the Indo-Bangla border killings. The interview was taken by Transcontinental Times political correspondent Tanbirul Miraj Ripon.
Transcontinental Times: How to analyse India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations ?
Gautam Lahiri: India and Bangladesh presently enjoy a bilateral relation which is described as beyond strategic relationship. After 45 long years land and maritime boundary was resolved amicably. It has to be noted that in the whole world India has set an example of good neighbourly relationship by conceding about 10 thousand acres of land to resolve the age old border dispute. Even in settling maritime boundary India conceded sea boundary. This relationship can not be altered by using some emotive issue as India played a crucial role during the freedom movement of Bangladesh. The relationship has a history of joint struggle.Indian soldiers laid down their lives for the liberation of Bangladesh.
Transcontinental Times: Why are the number of killings on the Bangladesh-India border increasing?
Gautam Lahiri : The nearly 4100 kms border between India and Bangladesh is a complex one. Though the border was properly demarcated, there are still people who has some land for cultivation on either side. Sometimes this creates confusion among the border guards and some untowards incident happens. Every death is condemnble no doubt. Border guards of both the countries –BSF and BGB had agreed for joint patrol and a standard operating procedure was accepted mutually to manage the border. There is a mechanism where BGB officials did raise the issue of border killing,but when comparing the number of killings in the border has come down from what it was 5-10 years ago.And this fact publicly acknowledged by the BGB after the joint meeting . Though the aim was to bring down border killing to zero,that could not be achieved till date.
The border runs through densely cultivated and populated areas,but also through forests ,rivers,and fields.Naturally, it has become a hub of illegal economic activities ,including illegal trade of cattle(cattle trading is banned in India),drugs, human trafficking. These facts are known to border guards of both countries. It’s also not true that only Bangladeshi citizens are dying ,Indian citizens also succumbed to injury during the clash. A recent statistics shows that in the year 2017 , eight persons from BD were killed whereas five Indians also died during the same period. In 2018 one bangladeshi died and three Indians succmbed to injury in the same year. In 2019 the figure went up and 19 Bangladeshi died wheras in the same time 12 indians also died. Till June 2020, three bangladeshi died at the border whereas two Indians also died.
It’s not only the civilians dying, BSF jawans also faced armed attack and two jawans died in the year 2017 and 122 were seriously injured. In 2018 though no casualty on BSF side but 72 jawans suffered heavy injury, In 2019, one jawan died from the attack of miscreants and 83 jawans were badly injured while combating armed group. This year 16 BSF Jawans badly injured.
For any two neighbouring countries facing such a challenge ,it is essential to have a real time cooperation between the border guarding forces of both sides to ensure a peaceful border. When some Bangladeshi knowingly or unknowingly crosses the border it’s also the duty of BGB to prevent that. In fact most of the incidents barring a few happened during the night. Questions should be raised about who comes to border in the dead of night. But security cooperation between two countries is bearing fruits and this probably provoked smugglers to attack more vigorously. It’s the reason that media reports have highlighted the upsurge in recent violent incidents.
Transcontinental Times: This does not happen on the India-Pakistan border. What’s the major difference?
Gautam Lahiri : India –Bangladesh border situation can not be compareed with India-Pakistan border. India faces cross border terrorism from the land of Pakistan. United nation Security council has proscribed many terrorists organistaion which operate from the land of Pakistan. Only last year pakistani terrorists attacked Indian soldiers and 40 of them died on the spot. Pakistan resorts to regular firing violating ceasefire agreement .When India retaliates there are some casualties of civilian across the border. India and Pakistan are still in war though its named as proxy war. While situation of India and Banglaadesh border is completely different.
Transcontinental Times: There is no other example of brutal murder like Felani’s murder. Do soldiers just get the responsibility to kill? And humanity?
Gautam Lahiri : Both the countries enjoy a cordial freindly relation which is described in the world as model neighbourly relation. What had happened in the case of teenager Felani, nine years ago is horrible and is condemned by all. India instituted enquiry and the accused BSF constable was under suspension. This incident sensitized security forces of both countries and there hasn’t been a repeat since. But raising those old sad story will not serve the purpose for a amicable solution.
Transcontinental Times: What is the solution?
Gautam Lahiri : The way forward is simple. Both the countries should work together to ensure that border deaths come down to zero. For this it is essential to fence the remaining stretch of unfenced border. This is no doubt a difficult task, but it’s also a major cause of border related issues. Border guards should also take proactive steps to stop untoward movements . Remember most of the violent activities are happening within Indian boundary except a few.