Friday, 24 February 2012

Bring BSF firing down to zero: Shahara


Fri, Feb 24th, 2012 5:39 pm BdST

New Delhi Correspondent

New Delhi, Feb 24 (bdnews24.com)— Bangladesh on Friday asked India to bring down to zero the incidents of firing by its Border Security Force personnel along the border even as New Delhi claimed that such cases dramatically declined over the past eight months.

The BSF also recently ordered "court martial" proceedings against eight of its personnel after the release of a video with footages of a Bangladeshi citizen being stripped, kicked and beaten by them along the border in Murshidabad district of West Bengal.

"We thank Indian government for asking its BSF personnel to exercise restraint and for taking punitive actions against the personnel involved in incidents of torture on people along the border," home minister Sahara Khatun told journalists after a meeting with her Indian counterpart P Chidambaram in New Delhi.

Shahara appreciated the decline in the number of firing by the BSF personnel along the border but stressed on the need to bring down the number of such cases to zero. She also called on Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Border management and effective implementation of Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) signed by the two countries in July 2011 topped the agenda of the parleys between the home ministers on Friday.

The Indian home minister handed Shahara a dossier on the incidents of firing by the BSF in the recent months.

Addressing a joint press conference with Shahara, Chidambaram said Bangladesh-India border witnessed a 'dramatic decline' in the incidents of firing by BSF after New Delhi asked the border guards to exercise restraint.

He said that only three incidents had been reported over the past eight months, one in November and two in December and these resulted in the death of four people.

"We do regret all deaths on the border, but in all the three incidents over the past eight months, the BSF personnel had no other option but to open fire to save their colleagues after they had been attacked," he said.

Chidambaram said that New Delhi would continue to make efforts to reduce the incidents of firing.

New Delhi and Dhaka on Friday short-listed 23 vulnerable border out posts for start of joint patrol by the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh in accordance with the CBMP, signed last July.

This was the second meeting between Chidambaram and Shahara after they had met in Dhaka in July last year.

BSF chief U K Bansal told journalists after the talks that the eight personnel of the paramilitary force, who were seen recently in a video footage torturing a man on the border, were found prima facie "guilty" by a staff court of inquiry and now a court martial would be conducted to record evidences, to give them opportunities to defend themselves and decide the level of punishments.

According to the sources in the India's ministry of home affairs, Chidambaram also conveyed to Shahara that New Delhi's policy of restraint had 'emboldened' criminal elements, who had stepped up their attacks on the BSF personnel deployed along the border. A number of attacks had been recorded on BSF personnel and posts along the India-Bangladesh border over the last few months, the sources added.

New Delhi stressed that the CBMP had envisaged joint responsibility of both the BSF and BGB to synergise their efforts to ensure effective control over cross-border illegal activities and crimes as well as for the maintenance of peace and harmony along the border.

Chidambaram is understood to have told Shahara that illegal activities, which sometimes led to 'regrettable loss of lives on both sides along the border', needed to be addressed through joint collaborative efforts and mechanisms.

New Delhi had urged Dhaka to take measures to restrict the movement of people along the border, especially during night hours, the sources said.

According to a report released by a leading human rights organisation Odhikar in Dhaka on Jan 18, the BSF killed 31 Bangladeshi nationals only in 2011. The human rights organisation in the fact-finding report also said that BSF had breached the border agreement between Bangladesh and India by killing innocent girl Felani Khatun.

The BSF on Jan 7 last year shot dead 15-year old Felani after she got entangled in barbed-wire fence in the Phulbari border in Kurigram.

Recently, a young man from Chapainawabganj was tortured by the Indian border guards along Rajshahi border. The BSF personnel beat him mercilessly after he allegedly refused to bribe them. The Indian government faced severe criticism after the video of the torture was released by some Indian TV stations and on the internet.

Later, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report demanded trial of the responsible BSF members involved in torturing and killing of Bangladeshi citizens along the border region. "It will be proven now whether law enforcers in India have risen above law," the report said.

Back in December 2001, HRW published a report titled 'Trigger Happy: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border'.

Faced with criticism from all quarters, the Indian government at that time had said BSF will be provided with 'non-lethal' weapons to avert bloodshed. Though, killing incidents were at a wane following the announcement, incidents of torture kept taking place.

Chairman of the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission Mizanur Rahman on Feb 8 this year threatened to take the issue of killings and torture of Bangladeshi nationals by BSF to the United Nations unless the rights body of the next-door neighbour initiates steps against it.

Mizanur had said that a letter has been sent to the Indian Human Rights Commission seeking its intervention in the matter.

Earlier on Feb 7, BSF chief Bansal had told the BBC in an interview that firing can never be completely stopped as long as illegal activities continue along the border.

bdnews24.com/corr/bd/1700h

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