Bangladesh and India will hold director general level border talks in mid-September to discuss bilateral and security related issues
The year 2020 continues to see a rise in border killings as neighbouring country India’s border forces did not stop killing Bangladeshis along the border areas.
The killings continued even after Delhi’s assurance to bring down border deaths to zero.
Human rights defenders blamed impunity, lack of accountability and soft approach from the Bangladesh side behind the continuation of those killings.
In the first eight months of this year, a total of 35 people was killed by border violence in Indo-Bangla border -- including 29 people shot to death and five deaths from physical torture. In 2019, 43 people were killed.
The number of people killed this year is 150% higher than what it was in 2019 -- 14 deaths.
Eighteen people were killed in 2017, 31 in 2016, 46 in 2015, 33 in 2014, and 26 in 2013, shows the data compiled by human rights campaigner Ain O Salish Kendra.
These numbers do not account for the many who have been injured or abducted in the border areas.
Assurances vs reality
On different occasions, India continued to assure Bangladesh about bringing the border deaths to zero. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) also promised not to use lethal weapons on the borders.
However, the reality is different.
On September 5, BSF gunned down a Bangladesh citizen after he entered the Indian territory near Telkupi border in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj.
A Bangladeshi man was shot dead by the BSF at the Pakhiura border in Narayanpur union under Nageshwari upazila in Kurigram on September 3.
On August 28, BSF returned the body of a Bangladeshi youth who was shot dead by them on the Kushtia border 15 days ago.
On August 21, BSF shot and wounded a Bangladeshi youth at Angarpota border of Dahagram union under Patgram upazila of Lalmonirhat.
All these four developments took place after Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and Indian counterpart Harsh Vardhan Shringla met in Dhaka in mid-August and assured that they would focus on reducing the number of border killings.
During the meeting of the two foreign secretaries, Bangladesh flagged that this is in violation of all bilateral agreements and that the Indian Border Security Force must be duly urged to exercise maximum restraint.
The Indian side also assured that the BSF authorities have been sensitized of the matter and the issue will be discussed in detail at the DG level talks between BGB and BSF to be hosted by Dhaka this month, according to the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh.
However, the incidents continue to paint tragic stories.
Human rights activist Nur Khan Liton said top level authorities of Bangladesh including ministers have agreed not to use lethal weapons at borderline, but the use of the weapons in killing Bangladeshis continued even in the time of the coronavirus crisis.
“None of the people killed were found with any arms or explosives which means they (India) are killing our unarmed people,” he said.
“No matter how many times they (India) promise to bring down border deaths to zero, their action says otherwise. There was a time when they used to blame cattle smuggling behind such shootings, however there is no cattle smuggling right now,” he said.
Nur Khan suggested the Bangladesh government bring the issue into international attention, including taking it to the United Nations, to find a proper solution.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Director General (DG) of Border Guards Bangladesh Major General Shafeenul Islam did not responded to the phone calls despite repeated attempts.
On August 23, during a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said that India has assured that it will carry out an investigation into why border killings were taking place despite the neighbouring country’s decision to bring those down to zero.
DG level meeting this month
Bangladesh and India will hold the director general level border talks in Dhaka in the middle of this month to discuss bilateral and security related issues.
The talks will be held at Pilkhana from September 13 to September 18.
The meeting is expected to discuss joint border security management, fencing of unfenced areas, and undertaking effective steps to curb cross-border crimes while Bangladesh will put emphasis into putting an end to killing Bangladeshi nationals on the Indo-Bangla borderline.
Issues like smuggling and human trafficking will also be discussed at the annual meeting.
Source: Ain O Salish Kendra