Tribune Online Report Law & Rights
The 15-year-old was shot dead by BSF men while attempting to cross the border
A special court set up by India’s Border Security Force acquitted BSF Constable Amiya Ghosh of the charge of killing Bangladeshi girl Felani Khatun at the Cooch Behar border.
BSF’s 181 Battalion Constable Amiya Ghosh, the prime accused, could not be found guilty because of “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him, the court said in its verdict.
A five-man BSF General Security Forces court headed by its Assam-Meghalaya frontier DIG (Communication) SP Trivedi conducted the hearings at Sonari BSF camp near the North Bengal town of Cooch Behar from August 13.
BSF officials said that the verdict was given on Thursday night and the proceedings of the GSF court were forwarded to the Director General for final approval because the case has been seen as “extra sensitive.”
“We can make a formal announcement only after the DG’s decision,” said a BSF official wishing not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to media.
The official was reluctant to share details of the proceedings of the GSF court, but said that the charges against Amiya Ghosh could not be “clinching.”
Public Prosecutor of the Kurigam District Judge’s Court Abraham Lincoln, who was assisting Felani’s family, told our Kurigram correspondent that justice had been compromised through the verdict.
“The possibility to stop unabated killing at the border has faded and it is a disrespect to human rights to acquit a self-confessed killer,” Lincoln added.
Decrying the verdict, Felani’s father Nurul Islam said, “A killer of such an inhuman act can in no way be acquitted. I will seek justice at the International Court.”
Her mother Jahanara Begum said, “The Indian government has betrayed us. We do not accept the verdict.”
Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) acting commanding officer Major Abdullah Al Mahmud said, “BSF has not informed us officially. We are trying to contact and we are still expecting justice of the killing from the court.”
West Bengal-based rights group MASUM’s Kirity Ray lashed out at the BSF for unleashing a reign of terror on the border and said Felani was a victim of it.
“The BSF trial was a shame,” he added. It was the first instance of BSF trying any of its personnel despite frequent border killings.
Felani’s father M Nurul Islam and maternal uncle M Abdul Hanif travelled to Cooch Behar to testify at the court. Lt Col Ziaul Haque Khaled of BGB 45 Battalion and Kurigram public prosecutor Abraham Lincoln also went to assist the witnesses.
Felani, a 15-year-old girl, was shot dead by BSF while she was returning to her home in Bangladesh. As she tried to climb over the barbed-wire fencing along the Anantapur border in Kurigram on January 7, 2011, her clothes got entangled in the wire and the BSF fired at her, hearing her screams.
Her body was left dangling on the barbed wire for nearly five hours and she was reportedly alive for at least four hours after being shot.
The photograph of Felani’s bullet-ridden body hanging from the barbed wire was published in the local and international media, following which there was an outpouring of demand for justice.