A West Bengal-based rights group has condemned the recurring incidents of illegal detention and judicial remand of Bangladeshi women and children by the BSF and North 24 Parganas police, and demanded a neutral investigation into why the law enforcers are defying a government order consistently.
“The detention of those women with children discloses a shocking state of affairs which is in total disregard of basic human rights and the government's own directive,” MASUM said in a complaint to the Indian Human Rights Commission, adding that the commission had failed to take requisite action over the previous complaints.
In the latest application sent on November 11, Kirity Roy, secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), has described the illegal arrests of three women from Khulna and Satkhira along Tarali border on June 16 by the BSF.
Later Swarupnagar police filed a criminal case against them without conducting any investigation and produced them before a court which sent them to Dum Dum Central Correctional Home instead of shelter home.
Three children of two of the women aged two, five and eight are also languishing in the detention centre.
MASUM has conducted a primary investigation and found that the women hailing from poor and needy families went to India in search of job with the help of agents.
“They have no connection and involvement with any illegal activities. But it seems that the officials of the Government of India as well as the Government of West Bengal have no concern over the decision taken by the government.”
The agents have tacit liaison with the BSF to facilitate cross border movement, the complaint says.
36 Bangladeshi children illegally detained in India
“Instead of repatriating them to their home country, they were implicated in criminal case for coming to India without any valid papers.”
This act of the authorities concerned by initiating prosecution against the women is against the standing instruction of the office memorandum of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division) dated May 1, 2012, which says if a woman or child is found after investigation to be a victim of human trafficking, she should not be prosecuted under the Foreigners Act.
In such cases, the police should not file a charge sheet against the victim. But if a charge sheet is already filed, “steps may be taken to withdraw the case from prosecution so far as the victim is concerned.”
The authorities must ensure that the victim is repatriated to the country of her origin through diplomatic channels. “During the interim period, pending repatriation, the victim may be taken care of in an appropriate children’s home or appropriate shelter home,” the memorandum says.
In the previous complaint filed on October 26, MASUM listed the names of 13 Bangladeshi women who were detained by the BSF on July 17, handed over to the same North 24 Parganas police and have been kept in Dum Dum Central Correctional Home through the same Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Bashirhat court.
In mid-October, BGB arrested 49 Bangladeshis including 37 women while returning to the country illegally.
According to Kirity Roy, rackets of border guards, customs officials and local politicians were engaged in human trafficking. About 200-300 women and girls are crossing the border illegally every day to enter West Bengal.
Men and women from Bangladesh go to Mumbai, Delhi and other metropolitans to earn their living as daily labourer, mason and domestic help.
MASUM: Release Bangladeshi trafficking victims
There is no exact figure of how many women and children are trafficked to India every year. The two governments last year signed an agreement to prevent human trafficking, especially in women and children, and the rescue, recovery, repatriation and reintegration of the victims.
Seeking urgent intervention of the NHRC, the rights group has demanded that the three women along with their children be shifted to a shelter home immediately and repatriated to their home country.
MASUM has also demanded that legal action be taken against the law enforcement agencies for not complying with the standing instruction of the Home Ministry's office memorandum.
The rights body says continuous systematic flouting of the instructions by the BSF and the North 24 Parganas police purely mechanical approach of judiciary is in contravention of bilateral arrangement with neighbouring countries and lowering the prestige of India.