‘A matter of relief’ not yet
THE trial of the killing of Felani Khatun, a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl who was shot dead by the Border Security Force of India on January 7, 2011 when she was crossing the border into Bangladesh over barbed-wire fences, began in a special court at the BSF 181 battalion headquarters in Koch Bihar on Tuesday. According to a Border Guard Bangladesh officer, quoted in a New Age report on Wednesday, the court will record the deposition of Felani’s father and her uncle as witnesses on August 19; the court is expected to deliver its verdict before August 31.
One indeed has reasons to feel happy that the trial has finally begun. However, there is hardly any reason for anyone to term the beginning as ‘a matter of relief’, as the Bangladesh home minister did. First of all, Felani was just one of the 214 Bangladeshis killed between January 2009 and June 2013. But India is yet to make any response to Bangladesh’s demand for redress for all other victims’ families. It is also important to recall here that Indian security forces have reportedly killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Bangladeshis, on the India-Bangladesh border over the past 10 years. While the Indian government has so far promised to stop such killings, such promises have not translated into effective actions.
It is worth noting that the Felani killing did hog headlines in the regional and international news media and caused significant damage to India’s image in the international community. As such, it is entirely likely that the trial is more a mere face-saving exercise by the Indian government than a serious and sincere effort to address Bangladesh’s concern over border killing or ensure justice for those who lost their loved ones in such killings. Every murder means an irreparable loss to the victim’s family, while killing of its nationals by a neighbouring country amounts to a threat to Bangladesh’s sovereignty.
Hence, while the incumbents need to continue their efforts to make Indian government come good on its promise to stop border killing, conscious sections of society need to sustain their protests over the issue.
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