Border killing and our sovereignty
Again and again the Indian government and the BSF assured that they would take care of the border killing but these words did not have any impact on this issue. It implies two things — that the Indian government do not really have any political commitment to stop the killing and that the diplomacy of Bangladeshi government has seriously failed, especially in the bilateral negotiations with India, writes M Mizanur Rahman
IF YOU take out the ‘r’, ‘friend’ becomes ‘fiend’. Of course, most people of Bangladesh would like to believe that India is a ‘friend’, not a ‘fiend’. However, such a belief gets shaken when the Border Security Force of India continue to kill Bangladeshis on the border; recent estimates show that at least 151 people (up to June 2012) have been killed by the Indian border sentinels during the tenure of the Awami League-led government, which insists that the bilateral relations between the two countries have turned a new corner since it assumed office in January 2009.
The photograph of the dead body of Felani tangled in the barbed-wire fence, the video footage of a farmer being brutalised by some BSF jawans on the Chapainawabganj border, etc are etched fresh in the public mind. The BSF claims that its personnel only open fire in self-defence. What were they defending themselves from — unarmed Bangladeshi men and women? Flag meeting between the Border Security Force of India and the Border Guards Bangladesh follows almost every incident of border killing. One may wonder how many flag meetings are needed to solve the problem, or even how ineffective diplomacy by the Bangladesh government can be.
Bangladesh is a sovereign state and won her independence through the sacrifice of numerous lives. India did extend a helping hand during the war of independence in 1971, and the people of Bangladesh have always been grateful for its support and deemed it as a friend. It is thus ironical that the border guards of the supposedly friendly neighbour contribute to the killing of a significant number of Bangladeshis every year.
The founding president of Bangladesh, the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, maintained good relations with India. However, one of the first things he did after independence was to ask the Indian government to withdraw its troops from Bangladesh, which the latter did. The ruling Awami League, the oldest and largest political party in Bangladesh, has historically had good relations with New Delhi the chairperson of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, during her recent visit to India, assured that neither she nor her party would allow Bangladesh’s soil to be used by terrorists and separatists to harm Indian interests.
The ruling party has also had some lucrative packages for India and, it seems, we are too modest to ask revenue from this old friend for using our land. We have blocked our river for making the ways for heavy trolleys and trucks of India. So, now what more can we do for showing our humbleness and gratitude to this friend?
Odhikar referring to the Bangla daily Manabjamin reported in December 2012 that the BSF occupied 34 acres land of Bangladesh. The local inhabitants alleged that the BSF took possession of the land without any challenges due to negligence of the higher officers of the Border Guards Bangladesh. Odhikar also reported that only in the first eleven months of 2012, 34 Bangladeshis were killed, 90 were injured and 64 were abducted by the BSF. Some 966 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the Indian border guards while 754 were injured, 1,032 abducted and 14 raped between January 2000 and October 2012. Can it be the condition of the citizen of an independent country? Can it be called friendly behaviour towards a neighbour?
The reaction of a responsible person of the government towards it was that ‘it is a common scene, border killing used to happen, is happening and will happen.’ It tends to indicate where we stand in respect of our bilateral relationship with India. They can be the cattle traders, shepherds and poor fellows but they are the citizen of the country and the government has taken over the responsibility of saving the lives of its people; it is the social contract we have between us.
Every conscious citizen will look into how much we have given to India and the Indians and in return how much we have received. People will also want to know who has really benefited.
This downstream country is becoming barren and the rivers are dying. We did not get the proper implementation of the Ganges treaty, we could not sign the Teesta water distribution treaty, and we could not even stop border killing.
For illegal cattle trade, the BSF often kills or picks up cattle traders but what the Indian government has done so far to control the cattle traders of that country? What measures they have taken to stop this business in their land? It is not that the Bangladeshi traders go there to steal cattle, rather there are some businessmen who sell and these Bangladeshis purchase. If death is the punishment for these Bangladeshi traders what has been that for Indian traders who have a significant value for the cows in their tradition. And in this situation, how we can think about the transnational relationship?
Again and again the Indian government and the BSF assured that they would take care of the border killing but these words did not have any impact on this issue. It implies two things — that the Indian government do not really have any political commitment to stop the killing and that the diplomacy of Bangladeshi government has seriously failed, especially in the bilateral negotiations with India.
If we look into the bilateral negotiations between these two neighbours in the past four years when the Congress and the Awami League are in the government of their respective country, we will see the achievement of Bangladesh has given a lot more than it received. But the expectation of common people was that, during the tenure of these two political parties, we would have the best relationship between us but none of the parties could address this properly.
Stopping border killing is such an issue where the government will get one hundred per cent support from the people and a single success on this issue or even a bold step by the government would keep the Awami League in a better position while campaigning for the next election even after all these scams in the country.
M Mizanur Rahman is a development researcher. email@example.com.
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