The confrontation began when a patrol team of the border guards seized two cows from a home
Three people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed on Tuesday in a clash between Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) personnel and locals of Haripur area of Thakurgaon.
Confirming the matter to the Dhaka Tribune, Thakurgaon Sector Commander Col Shamsul Arefin and Haripur police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Amiruzzaman said a BGB team fired on a local mob that had attacked them.
Another 28 people, including two BGB troopers, were injured in the clash.
Col Shamsul elaborated: “The BGB has taken a strict stance against smuggling and illegal trespassing along the border region, due to an increased number of border killings in the past few weeks.”
“As part of a drive against smuggling, a BGB patrol team seized two Indian cows from the home of Habibur Rahman Baharampur in Chandgaon. The team was attacked on its way to Betna camp by a local mob.”
Tuesday’s incident came hard on the heel of three more deaths in recent weeks on the same stretch of border but those in the hands BGB’s counterparts in India allegedly over cow smuggling.
The frequency of the encounters, in conjunction with the noticeable rise in casualties in this stretch of the border has alarmed locals.
Late last night, the BGB held a briefing where they elaborated on what happened. Col Arefin and BGB 50 Battalion Commander Lt Col Tuhin Md Masud addressed the press.
Col Shamsul said: “The BGB has taken a strict stance against smuggling and illegal trespassing along the border region, due to an increased number of border killings in the past few weeks.
“As part of a drive against smuggling, a BGB patrol team seized two Indian cows from the home of Habibur Rahman Baharampur in Chandgaon. On the way back to Betna camp after seizing the cattle, a mob armed with staves and bladed weapons stopped the car by blocking the road. They shouted threats and obscenities like ‘We are going to drop BGB bodies tonight’ while making intimidating gestures.”
He continued: “The patrol team commander asked the mob to disperse peacefully, and refrain from obstructing a government operation. The mob, however, tried to attack again, forcing the BGB team to open fire. The 14 people who were shot were taken to Haripur Upazila Health Complex, where the on-duty doctor declared two of them dead.”
12-year-old Jainul, another injured, also died at the health complex, according to the police.
The other two deceased are Nabab, 35, and Sadek, 45, from Ruhia village.
The villagers say the cows BGB had seized were bought in an auction. Habibur Rahman’s son Yakub Ali said BGB had wrongfully fired on citizens in the name of recovering smuggled cows.
However, Lt Col Tuhin said: “The incident is being investigated. Whoever is responsible will face strict action.”
He said the BGB has formed a committee to look into the incident.
Additionally, the district administration has formed its own committee to investigate the subject.
The BGB commander also reaffirmed the border guard’s firm commitment to end trafficking cattle, people, and drugs, and illegal trespassing.
When Thakurgaon Deputy Commissioner Kamruzzaman Selim arrived to visit, he was accosted by a furious mob that he managed to calm after speaking to them for some time.
Three killed in BSF shooting
Between January 10 and January 29, three Bangladeshi nationals were gunned down and one other detained by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) along different points of the border in Thakurgaon’s Ranisankail and Haripur upazilas.
Border deaths have been a contentious issue between India and Bangladesh. The recent spike in border killings by the BSF has left the BGB and the locals confused in absence of a probable cause behind the Indian force’s “trigger-happy behaviour.”
One of the deceased was a teenager and the other two were in their 20s.
Of them, BSF soldiers shot dead Jahangir Alam, 21, near the Dharmagarh border in Ranisankail on January 18; Md Jenarul Haque, 22, near Minapur border in Haripur on January 21; and Sohel Rana Babu, 14, along the Jagdal border in Ranisankail on January 28.
Babu is a victim of the ill-conceived Partition, which recklessly divided families and stranded them across national divides. He had gone to attend a relative’s wedding
Another person, a day labourer named Shah Alam, was also detained by BSF after he illegally entered India through the Kanativita border on January 24.
Shah Alam’s family was among many others who claimed he only trespassed into India to work because there were no jobs available in the vicinity.
Several families of the victims also questioned the role of BSF’s 171st battalion Commander Commandant Rakesh Sinha in the border killings.
Though the BSF said they had adopted the strategy to use non-lethal weapons since 2012, border killings, of mostly Bangladeshi nationals, took place in phases along different border points since then.
The BSF claim they open fire at suspects or trespassers only when they fail to take control of a situation using non-lethal weapons.
Border killings had declined in the Thakurgaon border areas over the past five years following different initiatives of the BGB’s 30th and 50th battalions, government-to-government diplomatic measures, and understanding between the BGB and BSF reached through meetings and discussions.
Several BGB initiatives, including rehabilitation of the smugglers and their successful reintegration into the society, have also garnered much praise from all quarters as they brought down the number of border killings.
However, apart from being surprised, BGB has become warier after the recent deaths of Bangladeshi nationals along the border at the hands BSF soldiers, who have again started going for the lethal option instead of non-lethal ones while dealing with trespassers.
Regarding the matter, BGB’s 50th battalion Director Lt Col Tuhin Md Masud said: “One thing that is stressed more in every flag meeting with BSF is that number of border killings must be brought down. But BSF apparently is not paying much attention to that nowadays.”
Weighing in on the issue, Ranisankail Upazila Press Club President Mobarak Ali said BSF could have easily found other ways to handle the matter of trespassing, instead of gunning down the Bangladeshi nationals.
“But it seems BSF has become more reckless. This [border killing] is very sad and is a violation of international human rights,” he added.
Local journalist Kabirul Islam said: “These border killings will damage bilateral ties, especially diplomatic measures and initiatives taken by the border guards of both countries to stop border killings.”
BGB sources said the smuggling ties BSF generally cites after each border killing is not “entirely true.”
14-year-old Babu was returning from a relative’s house on the other side of the border after attending a family event when he was killed by BSF on January 28, according to his family.
Thakurgaon-based human rights activist Abdul Latif said such killings can be avoided if BSF only shows a little bit of restraint.
“They [BSF] should try to detain alive those who are unarmed and nonviolent,” he added.