Five-day conference of Indo-Bangla border security forces starts
The year 2020 has witnessed the highest number of killings of Bangladesh nationals along the border by the Indian border force in the last 10 years.
The killings continued even after Delhi's repeated assurance that border deaths would be brought down to zero.
The highest number of border killings has been reported at a time when the director generals of border forces of the two countries met at a five-day conference that began in India on Tuesday.
Between January 1 and December 16, at least 45 Bangladesh citizens were either shot dead or tortured to death by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in the border areas.
The number of border killings had started coming down since 2016, before it started to go up in 2019 again, with 43 people killed by the BSF in the year, according to data compiled by different human rights defenders.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, while speaking in parliament on July 11, 2019, said the number of border killings by the BSF was 66 in 2009, 55 in 2010, 24 each in 2011 and 2012, 18 in 2013, 24 again in 2014, 38 in 2015, 25 in 2016, 17 in 2017, and only three in 2018.
Data compiled by the human rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), however, shows 43 people were killed in 2019, 14 in 2018, 24 in 2017, 30 in 2016, 46 in 2015, 32 in 2014, and 26 in 2013.
These numbers do not account for the many who were injured or abducted in the border areas.
According to a human rights organization, at least 1,185 Bangladeshis were killed by the BSF along the Bangladesh-India border between 2000 and 2019.
In 2011, the killing of the Bangladeshi girl Felani, 15, by the BSF and a picture of her body hanging upside down from the barbed wire fence on the border, carried by the international media, triggered an outcry across the globe.
Shooting continues amid commitment of zero deaths
India continued to assure Bangladesh about bringing border deaths to zero on different occasions, but the reality remains different as the commitment by the BSF of not using lethal weapons on the borders remains largely ignored.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and his Indian counterpart Harsh Vardhan Shringla met in Dhaka in mid-August and gave assurances that they would focus on reducing border killings.
In mid-September, the director generals of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and BSF met at a four-day conference in Dhaka where they discussed issues such as the shooting, killing and injuring of unarmed Bangladesh nationals at the border and smuggling of narcotics from the other side of the border to Bangladesh.
However, the incidents continue to paint tragic stories.
In the latest incident, the BSF shot a Bangladeshi woman to death along Nadia border of West Bengal in India on Monday, just a day ahead of the BGB-BSF conference.
According to the Indian border force, deceased Sahran Halder, 45, is a resident of Khulna, reports Anandabazar.
On December 16, Victory Day in Bangladesh, a youth named Zahidul Islam was shot dead by the BSF in the border area under Srirampur union in Patgram upazila of Lalmonirhat.
Earlier on December 10, another Bangladeshi named Abu Taleb, 32, died after being seriously injured in a BSF shooting at the border of the same union.
Human rights activist Nur Khan Liton said use of lethal weapons at the border, despite promises of not using those, has continued even in the time of the coronavirus crisis.
"As no people, who were killed along the border, were found with any arms or explosives, it is clear that the Indian border force is killing our unarmed people," he said.
Only discussions between the two countries cannot solve the crisis, and Bangladesh must bring the issue into international attention, including taking it to the United Nations, to find a proper solution, he suggested.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on December 17 described the killings of Bangladeshis by the Indians along the border as a stain on relations between Dhaka and New Delhi.
Addressing a press conference after the virtual summit between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, Momen said the Indian prime minister himself said that no lethal weapons would be used and assured that he (Modi) would instruct the force (BSF) afresh in this regard.
The foreign minister also said that both sides will work on a coordinated border management to bring down the killings to zero.
'Horrific killing ground in South Asia'
The opposition BNP on Sunday alleged that the Bangladesh-India border had turned into a "horrific killing ground in South Asia."
"When Bangladeshis are being killed at a wholesale rate along the border, our government is not only staying silent but also legitimizing the killings of Bangladeshis by the BSF," claimed BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi while speaking at a press conference at the party's Naya Paltan central office.
"The Bangladesh-India border is now the bloodiest one in the world due to the knee-jerk foreign policy of the government that came to power without votes. The Bangladesh-India border has now become one of the deadliest killing grounds in South Asia," he said.
The BNP leader alleged that no activity of the BGB was in sight other than holding flag meetings on the border killings and receiving the bodies of the victims.
The party observed countrywide protest programs on Monday against the indiscriminate killings of Bangladeshis by the BSF.
At a press conference at the party chairperson's Gulshan office, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the BSF was killing Bangladesh citizens in the border continuously.
He demanded effective steps by the Awami League government to stop the killings.
BGB-BSF DG-level conference on
Bangladesh and India started a five-day-long director general (DG)-level border talks in Guwahati, Assam, at 3pm on Tuesday to discuss bilateral and security related issues.
An 11-member delegation of Bangladesh, led by BGB DG Maj Gen Shafeenul Islam, entered India in the morning through the Integrated Check Post at Dawki-Tamabil border of Sylhet.
Shafeenul’s Indian counterpart Rakesh Asthana is leading a 12-member delegation.
The talks are aimed at enabling better coordination between both border guarding forces via streamlining mechanisms on how to jointly curb various trans-border crimes, said officials.
Besides discussion on preventing cross-border smuggling, there will also be discussions on protection of river banks in the border areas of both countries, effective implementation of the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) for border management, and quickest resolution to frontier related issues and undertaking steps for further strengthening the mutual trust and friendship between the two border forces.
The conference will conclude with the signing of a Joint Record of Discussions (JRD) on December 25 and the Bangladesh team will return the following day.
Bangladesh, BGB sources said, would put emphasis on bringing an end to such killings at the border during the talks.
Before the event, BGB Director (Operations) Lt Col Faizur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune that putting an end to border killings had always been a concern for the force, and recently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also been requested to move the issue diplomatically.