Symbolic funeral prayers held for people killed along the Bangladesh-India border
A number of protesters have staged demonstrations on the Dhaka University (DU) campus demanding justice for people killed by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) at the border.
The demonstrators came up with the demand at a time when incidents of border killing have been rising alarmingly.
The protesters, under the banner of "Bangladesher Nagorikbrindo" (Citizens of Bangladesh), mostly comprising quota reform movement activists, left-leaning student body leaders, and a few Chhatra Dal leaders participated in the program at Raju Memorial Sculpture on Saturday.
They also held a Gayebana Janaza (symbolic funeral prayers) at the venue for those killed in the border areas.
The prayers were conducted by Akram Hossain, a fourth year Sociology Department student of DU and also an activist of quota reform movement.
Before the prayers, citing a report, Brac University teacher Khandaker Muhammad Abdur Raquib said: "As many as 1,185 Bangladeshis have been killed so far in the absence of justice since 2001 along the Bangladesh-India border. Altogether 1,118 Bangladeshis were injured and more than 1,400 were disappeared. Several women were also raped.
"Living in a modern state, sometimes we think that justice is everywhere and no one can be punished without facing trial. But India has done this to Bangladeshis without caring about any laws. Rather India is tagging those killed Bangladeshis as smugglers, which is nothing but a false allegation," he added.
Raquib urged that justice be done for those killed.
Umama Fatema, a second year student of DU's Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department, said: "Border Guard Bangladesh [BGB] sometimes claimed that the killed persons were involved in drug peddling and smuggling while the Indians are supplying the illegal items. Our BGB is seen trying to justify the issue. Also our government is trying to justify the extra-judicial killings inside the country in the name of crossfire."
Criticizing the Bangladesh government's role in justifying these unethical issues, she said: "We have to raise questions about the judicial system of our country and then we can challenge the neighbouring country on their illegal deeds," she added.
In another development, MBA (Master of Business Administration) student of DU's Marketing Department Nasir Abdullah, also an activist of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, began a non-stop sit-in at the base of Raju sculpture around 6pm protesting the border killings.
The BSF has killed seven Bangladeshis between January 21 and 23 on the border, according to the media.
Threefold rise in border killings in 2019
When the death toll due to killings along the Bangladesh-India border went down in 2018, the downward trend was expected to continue. But the sharp rise in border killings in 2019 indicates the opposite.
At least 43 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the BSF in 2019, a threefold increase from 14 in the previous year, according to data compiled by the rights watchdog Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).
ASK further said that of the 43 Bangladeshi victims, 37 were shot dead, while six were tortured to death.
The death toll was 24 in 2017, 31 in 2016, and 46 in 2015, according to ASK.
BGB Director General Major General Shafeenul Islam, at a press conference on January 2, said that the number of Bangladeshis killed by the BSF was 35 last year.
Despite friendly relations between Bangladesh and India, as cited by top government officials on different occasions, Bangladesh has been unable to bring down the border killings, raising eyebrows at different quarters over the failure.
Killing the unarmed
Nine years ago, Felani, a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl, was shot dead by the BSF at the border when she was returning to Bangladesh with her father as her wedding had been arranged in the country. Felani and her father had been staying in New Delhi and had tried to cross the border illegally by using a ladder.
A picture of her body hanging from the barbed wire border fence was carried by international media, triggering an outcry and raising questions on border security in the area.
The spotlight on border killings has led some global news organizations to call the Bangladesh-India border "the most dangerous border in the world."
Bangladesh and India have held many meetings on border casualties, but the killings have not stopped yet.