In contrast to counts in Bangladesh, the director general of Indian Border Security Force yesterday claimed BSF personnel have killed only seven Bangladeshis along the border so far this year.
Border Guard Bangladesh puts the number at 27 and rights group Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) at 29.
BSF Director General Raman Srivastava, however, assured his Bangladesh counterpart of bringing down the number to zero.
He was briefing journalists at the BGB headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka at the end of a six-day conference between the two border forces.
A top BGB official termed “unrealistic” the number given by the BSF chief.
“Till September this year, 27 Bangladeshi civilians have been killed and 17 injured by BSF,” the official told The Daily Star, requesting anonymity.
According to ASK, 13 of the 29 killed by BSF men in January-September were physically tortured. During the period, 53 other Bangladeshis were wounded by the border force.
Odhikar, another human rights group, said BSF killed 27 Bangladeshis between January and August this year. The number was 74 last year and 98 the previous year, according to a report prepared by the group.
But the BSF chief said 32 Bangladeshi nationals were killed in 2010 and 55 in 2009.
According to BGB sources, the numbers are 60 and 67.
“Incidents of killing in border areas are decreasing gradually. We assure you that incidents of border killing will be lessened to zero as we want friendly relations,” Srivastava told the briefing.
Replying to a query, he said, “What you call border killings are not killings, those are deaths. And we're also sorry for that.
“BSF personnel have stopped using bullets at maximum level. Non-lethal weapons are being used now.”
He added that some killings are the result of self-defence on the part of BSF.
Expressing concern over the increasing number of incidents of cutting barbed wire fence on the border, he said, “Incidents of fence cutting occurred at 333 places in 2008, 556 places in 2009, 924 places in 2010 and at 637 places till September this year.”
Meeting sources said India submitted separate lists of the Indian terrorists, smugglers and currency counterfeiters active in Bangladesh.
Maj Gen Anwar Hussain, director general of BGB, assured his Indian counterpart that his force will not let criminals use Bangladesh land.
Both the chiefs said they agreed to launch a joint border management after October 31 in line with an agreement signed during Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram's visit to Dhaka in July this year.
The joint management is aimed at resolving all outstanding border issues including combating cross-border crimes and enhancing quality of border management as well as to ensure cross-border security.
The BGB chief said his personnel do not shoot anyone in border areas; they rather arrest and hand over the suspects to BSF. “BGB abides by all international rules, and we want BSF to do the same,” said Anwar.