Killings in 3 districts follow fresh Indian assurance of no-firing at border talks
Though the Indian authorities had repeatedly assured Bangladesh of showing restraint and stopping border killings, its border guards killed four Bangladeshis in the last two days in the border areas of Dinajpur, Kurigram and Meherpur districts.
The killings took place on the heels of a four-day deputy director general-level conference between Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and India's Border Security Force (BSF) in Shillong, which ended on Thursday.
The victims are Motiar Rahman, 20, of Dakkhin Daudpur village, and Tajul Islam, 26, of Rongaon village in Birampur upazila of Dinajpur, Alamgir Hossain, 25, of Krishna Nanda village in Phulbari upazila of Kurigram and Naharul Islam, 40, of Meherpur Sadar upazila.
The BSF troops at Gobindapur camp opened fire on several Bangladeshi cattle traders at Daudpur of Katla union in Birampur upazila around 4:00am yesterday, reports our Dinajpur correspondent.
Motiar and Tajul died on the spot while the others managed to flee unhurt.
The BSF men took away the bodies, Lt Col Tareq Iftekhar Ahmed, acting commander of Phulbari BGB camp, told The Daily Star.
The Indian soldiers fired four shots during the incident that took place around 170 metres from the zero line on the Indian side of the border, he added.
At a flag meeting between the two border forces in Daudpur area yesterday afternoon, Bangladesh protested the killings and demanded return of the bodies.
The Indian side assured Bangladesh of returning the bodies and stopping recurrence of such incidents.
The Kurigram victim came under BSF attack in Camperchhara area near the zero line at Gorakmondal border in Phulbari upazila.
The BSF men at Narayanganj BOP (border observation post) camp of Cooch Behar district fired shots at Alamgir when he went there around 6:30am yesterday to respond to nature's call, reports our Kurigram correspondent quoting Subedar Emran, Shimulbari company commander of BGB.
Alamgir suffered severe injuries but managed to return home near the Gorakmondal border.
He succumbed to his wounds when his relatives had been rushing him to Phulbari Upazila Health Complex, said Mobassher Ali, chairman of Naodanga Union Parishad.
Police sent his body to Kurigram Sadar Hospital morgue for autopsy.
During a flag meeting with BSF in the afternoon in Krishna Nanda area, Lt Col Ziaul Haque Khaled, commanding officer of 45 Border Guard Battalion, strongly protested the shooting incident.
Rajesh Sohan, commandant of BSF 46 Battalion, claimed that Indian border troops acted in self-defence as about a dozen Bangladeshis attacked them.
Our Kushtia correspondent adds: BSF troops at Bazrapur camp in Nadia district picked up Naharul and killed him when he went near Shewratala frontier of Gangni upazila in Meherpur around 7:30pm on Friday.
Rezaul Karim, camp commander of 35 Border Guard Battalion, could not confirm how Naharul was killed. BSF troops might have strangled him, he suspected.
At a flag meeting yesterday afternoon, BSF promised to return the body by today.
Meanwhile, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram during his visit to Dhaka in July said New Delhi had ordered BSF not to shoot anyone crossing Indo-Bangladesh border, no matter whatever the circumstances were.
“Let me make it very clear….We have issued strict instructions to our border security forces that under no circumstances should they open fire on anyone trying to cross from either Bangladesh to India or India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the last jawan,” he said at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatun.
At a home secretary-level meeting in Dhaka in January, the issue was raised to draw New Delhi's urgent attention to this matter.
“On behalf of the government of India and myself, I deeply regret the deaths of Bangladeshi nationals,” GK Pillai, Indian home secretary, told a joint press briefing.
“Our efforts would be to take all necessary steps so that no death takes place on Indo-Bangla borders and this is our commitment to you,” he insisted.
The Bangladesh-India joint statement, made during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka tour in September, also expressed confidence that the Coordinated Border Management Plan would enhance cooperation between the border guards of the two neighbours and stop “loss of lives in the border areas.”
Following repeated pleas from Dhaka, New Delhi agreed in March to equip the BSF troops with non-lethal weapons to stop killing of unarmed Bangladeshis.
“The BSF jawans will carry non-lethal arms in addition to the regular ones,” BSF Director General Raman Srivastava announced on March 12.
The Daily Star could not reach Home Minister Shahara Khatun over the phone yesterday for her comments.
Contacted, Home Secretary Monzur Hossain only said, “The BGB chief has informed me about the killings.”
Asked about Indian promises, a senior home ministry official said, “Bangladesh has been pressing India to stop firing at the borders. Dhaka has raised the issue at almost every bilateral meeting and the Indian side has assured us of taking steps in this regard. But nothing really happens in practice as the killing continues.”