: New Delhi, March 26, 2011
Just a day before celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Bangladesh Independence, the country’s Home Minister Shahara Khatun reporting the death of as many as 136 Bangladeshis due to gunshots by Indian Border Security Force since January, 2009 has raised eye brows across diplomats of South Asia. Her further stating about 1,000 Bangladeshis were killed by Indian border guards over the last decade, as reported by Human Rights Watch, an international human rights group also comes as an important cause of concern between the relationship of the two countries. However, the Bangladesh Home Minister did try her best to maintain a positive stand with Indian during this declaration by stating that Bangladesh has already protested this killings by Indian forces and the Indian authorities have responded well. She confirmed that India has provided assurances of necessary measures to stop the killing of innocent Bangladeshi people along the border and Indian authorities has already ordered BSF to use rubber bullets and the test non-lethal weapons in the Indo – Bangla border.
At a time when it was being projected by India that Bangladesh has now started to help Indian security forces by capturing and destroying camps of militants of North east India like the ULFA, PLA, NDFB, etc operating in Bangladesh, this declaration by the Bangladesh Home Minister is set to hurt the Indo-Bangla relations to quite some extent. As reported in Times of Assam earlier, Bangladesh is already helping the Paresh Baruah section of ULFA to operate from its country and with this statement against Indian Security forces, she has now indirectly made it clear that India should expect little support any further from the Bangladesh in controlling or capturing Indian insurgents like the ULFA.
On the other hand, the reported deaths of Bangladeshis in the hands of Indian troops has raised several questions. Firstly, why the deaths in the first place. It is obvious that the Bangladeshis killed were not shooted at, as a part of shooting practice by Border security forces. They were killed either when trying to cross the Indo – Bangladesh border illegally to enter Assam, West Bengal and Tripura or suspecting them as potential militants trying to enter India. The former is a stronger possibility as militants trying to sneak into India from Bangladesh are well trained to escape the eyes of the border guards. Thus, with the report of Bangladeshis killings by Indian Border Guards, Bangladesh has actually accepted indirectly, that there is still a strong immigration flow of its citizens to neighboring Assam or West Bengal in India.
On the Indian part, the accuse by Bangladesh does not mean that Border Security Force is doing a good job or a bad job. They are simply following the orders of Shoot of Sight. But it reflects how shameless, careless and a big liar the Indian authorities can be. For several years, the barbed fence aimed at sealing the Indo – Bangla border has been delayed, deadlines have become just another date extended by a year and all agitations and demands to complete this project by public organizations and political organizations, especially in Assam has always been ignored.
It is really strange here to observe the difference between Indian’s border policy with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Indo – Pak border, for example in Jammu and Kashmir itself, is completely sealed off and consists of double-row of fencing with wires as high as about twelve feet, is electrified and connected to a network of motion sensors, thermal imaging devices and alarms. The small stretch of land between the rows of fencing is mined as well. Also, this entire project was completed in spite of Pakistan’s strong objection that it violates all bilateral accords and UN Security council regulations. Most importantly, the Indian military has declared that this fence reduced about 80% of militants movements between India and Pakistan. The fencing on the Indo – Bangla side, on the other hand is just a barbed wire with height less than three meters and the construction has been going on for ages with no definite end date for its completion. The sealed border between the two countries would have stopped the illegal movement of Bangladeshis to India, prevent movement of militants and also stopped smuggling of arms and other goods, yet strangely India does not seem keen in closing this issue once and for all. Nor does India show any sign to identify and deport the millions of Bangladeshis living in the country, – just because it acts as an important issue to win elections and come to power for both the ruling party as well as the opposition.