The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has killed 294 Bangladeshis in 10 years
Deaths due to shooting by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) are on the rise, even though the smuggling of cattle from India has been clamped down on in recent times.
BSF has repeatedly assured Bangladesh that border killings would drop if the cattle smuggling is stopped. Border Guard Bangladesh has also previously said that 95% of those who are killed in BSF shootings are cattle smugglers.
The Bangladesh government in 2019 banned the import of cattle from India as domestic cattle production was increasing and security was tightened on both sides of the border to prevent cattle smuggling. Earlier, India had banned the export of cattle in 2014.
Rawnak Mahmud, secretary of Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of Bangladesh, said: “We are self-sufficient in cattle production, so the import ban from India has continued.”
According to BGB data, about 2.3 million cattle entered Bangladesh ahead of Eid ul Azha in 2013, while only 92,000 were brought in at the same time last year.
However, 43 people were killed in BSF shootings in 2019, as compared to 14 in 2018. From January to June this year, another 25 people have fallen victim to border killings, according to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).
ASK data also says that 15 others were injured and 13 were reportedly abducted by BSF. Four people died of torture during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Saturday morning, a farmer was shot dead by BSF at Chapainawabganj. The victim was trying to hunt birds near the Telkupi border.
The deceased was identified as Jahangir Alam, 45, of Telkupi village in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj.
“Jahangir was trying to hunt birds, scattering wheat close to the zero point of the border when he was taken away by BSF members. He denied any involvement in smuggling and got in an argument with them before he was shot at close range. Later, I reached the spot and saw his bird hunting equipment on the ground,” Shahbazpur Union's Telkupi ward member Mofazzal Haque told Dhaka Tribune.
Mofazzal Haque added that Jahangir Alam also used to farm.
Samsul Alam Shah, officer-in-charge (OC) at Shibganj police station, said Jahangir was not involved in any kind of drug or cattle smuggling and no case had been filed against him.
Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) could not be reached for comment.
Security expert Brigadier General (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said: “Lethal weapons cannot be used at the borders of any country under international law. That is why India and China are now fighting hand to hand along their border. However, the Indian Border Security Force has always been trigger-happy on the Bangladesh side. Maybe they have been given instructions.
“I have no idea if BSF members have been convicted of border killings. These incidents are reflections of their policy making attitude. That's why our friendly relationship is rapidly deteriorating,” he added.
Government officials of both India and Bangladesh have repeatedly stressed that the two countries are friendly.
Top officials in the Indian government have pledged on several occasions to bring border killings down to zero and introduce non-lethal weapons at the borders, but the spike in border deaths indicates that the promises have not been kept.
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 using a ladder.
A picture of her body hanging upside-down from the barbed wire border fence was published by international media, triggering public outcry and raising questions on border security in the area.
The spotlight on border killing led some global news organizations to call the Bangladesh-India border “the most dangerous border in the world.”
Since then, Bangladesh and India have held many meetings on border casualties, but the killings have not stopped.
Govt: BSF has killed 294 Bangladeshis in 10 years
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, in July 2019, told parliament that a total of 294 Bangladeshis have been killed along the border by BSF in the last 10 years.
According to the statistics placed by the minister, at least 66 Bangladeshi nationals were killed along the Bangladesh-India border in 2009, 55 in 2010, 24 each in 2011 and 2012, 18 in 2013, 24 in 2014, 38 in 2015, 25 in 2016, 17 in 2017, and only 3 in 2018.
Responding to a question in parliament, the minister said BGB had taken various steps to build up confidence in people living in the border areas and the border guards of the two countries.
“Modern cameras and surveillance systems will be set up gradually in these sensitive areas,” Kamal added.