The killing of unarmed Bangladeshi citizens in border areas by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) is on the rise despite various initiatives and promises by the two sides.
Last week, on 8 December, two youths named Nazir Uddin and Robiul Islam from Bakuna Union in Haripur, Thakurgaon were killed by the BSF. The family of the deceased alleged that BSF members had shot and killed them.
Rabiul Islam's brother Mozammel Islam filed a case with the Haripur police station in this regard, said Aurangzeb, officer in charge of the station.
Nazir and Robiul are two of the 41 Bangladeshi nationals who have been killed, so far, this year (as of 14 December). In 2019, 34 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by BSF members.
A recent report sent to the Home Ministry by the law enforcement agencies revealed the gradual increase in border killings in recent years.
Experts have expressed concern over the rise in border killings. They also mentioned the Bangladesh-India border as the most violent border in the world.
However, senior officials of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) have claimed at various times that 95% of border killings are centered on smuggling. So, border killings will decrease if smuggling is stopped.
According to a Home Ministry report, the highest number of killings at the border occurred in January this year. 12 Bangladeshis were killed that month alone. However, no killings took place in February and April.
As of 14 December 2020, 35 people have been killed in BSF shootings, according to the human rights group Ain O Salish Kendra (Asak). Six more died as a result of physical abuse by BSF members. Twenty-two people were injured and 22 abducted.
Nur Khan Liton, secretary general of Ain O Salish Kendra, told The Business Standard, "Aside from the border guard forces of the two countries, even our prime minister has talked about the rise in this extrajudicial border killings. Every time we see the same kinds of commitments."
"They [India] said border killings would be brought down to zero. Even the new High Commissioner of India spoke seriously about this issue. He also promised that they will find a way to solve this problem," he added.
Liton further added, "But unfortunately we see that the number of border killings is on the rise despite various promises. We cannot send a clear message to India to stop these killings, and eventually, we may have to seek the help of the international community."
He said if anyone commits a crime, he should be brought under justice, but extrajudicial killings are not acceptable.
257 killed in 8 years
According to Ain O Salish Kendra, 257 Bangladeshis have been killed at the border between 2013 and 14 December 2020. Analysing data from the last eight years, Asak finds that the highest number of Bangladeshi nationals – 46 - were killed in the border in 2015. Over the next three years, border killings gradually decreased, but in 2019 they suddenly increased again. This trend has continued this year as well.
Promises and initiatives are not working
Various initiatives and promises have been made by the border guards of the two countries to bring the deaths of unarmed civilians at the border down to zero, but nothing has worked. The BSF has not kept its promise to refrain from using non-lethal weapons at the border.
However, the BGB and BSF claimed that shots had been fired to prevent the infiltration of smugglers. But the fact remains that smuggling has not stopped and various goods, including arms and drugs, are being brought into the country.
In September this year, a border conference was held between BGB and BSF. The four-day conference was attended by senior officials of the border guards of the two countries.
During the conference, the two forces reached an agreement on 14 issues, including increasing joint patrols in risky border areas, speeding up public awareness initiatives, and reducing the number of unarmed civilians killed, injured, and beaten at the border. As always, bringing border killings down to zero was at the top of the conference's agenda.
But seven people have been killed at the border since the conference ended.
BGB Director (Operations) Lieutenant Colonel Mahfuzur Rahman told The Business Standard, "Many people are involved in various crimes, either consciously or subconsciously, in the border areas. The situation will improve if public awareness is increased."
"We are working in various ways to stop border killings. The BGB continues to exert pressure in various ways to fulfill the promises made," he added.
Other crimes at the border
Various crimes take place on the country's borders with India and Myanmar every day, smuggling and drug trafficking being the most frequent. According to BGB data collected in November, smuggled goods and drugs worth Tk85.49 crore have been recovered by the BGB members.
Meanwhile, during that same period, the BGB arrested 324 people on drug trafficking and smuggling charges. In addition, 228 Bangladeshi nationals and nine Indian nationals have been detained for illegally crossing the border.
In October, the BGB recovered smuggled goods and drugs worth Tk64.95 crore, and the agency arrested 363 people involved in drug trafficking. Also, 250 Bangladeshis and seven Indians were arrested for illegally crossing the border.