BY SAM CORRESPONDENT BANGLADESH
India’s Border Security Force (BSF) continues its relentless killing of Bangladeshi nationals along the border despite the Bangladesh government’s claiming that friendship between the two countries has reached an all-time high.
Indian civil rights activist and national convenor of the Human Rights watchdog MASUM (Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha), Kirity Roy, talks to South Asian Monitor about the blatant human rights violations, its struggle against the killings and what lies ahead.
“Civilians on both sides of the border have aspirations for strong trade and economic ties and bonds of friendship,” Kirity Roy notes. “But they have no illusions about the Indian government’s stance regarding the killing of Bangladeshis along the border.”
“To the government, Bangladeshis are Muslims, they wear lungis, believe in Islam, and eat beef and so, they are enemies,” Roy says.
To the Indian government and BSF, the border regime for Bangladesh and Pakistan is the same. The fact that the villages in the India-Bangladesh border gave India all out support for Bangladesh’s independence struggle in 1971, seems to make no difference.
Roy points to Home Minister Amit Shah’s brazen statements in this regard, which highlight the Modi government’s strong stance against Muslims who supposedly migrated from Bangladesh. Shah, incidentally, went as far as to compare them to ‘termites’.
Kirity Roy, a strong activist against the border killings, says that there has been an overall increase in the killings. In 2010, Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh’s human rights organisation Odhikar and MASUM brought out a report on the killings between 2001 and 2010, which revealed that 1000 people were killed along the India-Bangladesh border in BSF firing.
The killings have increased under the Modi government, but it is getting more difficult to get accurate numbers, he points out.
“Earlier, when a killing took place, the body was found. Now the body goes missing. They simply dump it in the river Padma or Ichhamoti or any other river, or bury it, leaving no trace or proof. We have 312 cases in this regard in Murshidabad alone,” Roy points out.
About the efforts he and his organization are taking, the activist said: “We have collected cases in Uttar 24 Paraganas and in Cooch Behar. In every incident, we inform BSF, the state government and everyone about what has happened but to no avail.”
So far, they have had no recompense, other than sentences against a handful of police personnel.
“We have had no favourable verdict from the lower courts till now. The courts are under the administration and the police. They are not independent,” he asserts.
What about the higher courts?
He says that the High Court and Supreme Court are not influenced by the police administration, but he is not too optimistic about them too, pointing to the Ayodha verdict as an example.
“She was to be married the next day. But she was killed. BSF has done nothing about it. The tribunals that were formed were manned by their own people and so there was no outcome,” he recalls.
“We filed a case in 2015. Only now, on 14 February 2020, for the first time, there was a hearing in that case. It took five years. The next hearing is on 18 March,” he says.
Are they hopeful? “We are fighting,” is Kirity Roy’s terse response.
The killings are doing nothing to promote good feelings between the people of the two countries. “This has made the Bangladeshis extremely anti-Indian,” the human rights activist says.
“Unfortunately, the expectations of the people on both sides of the border are not reflected by either the government of Bangladesh or that of India. The people of Bangladesh want an end to the BSF killings, but until now the Bangladesh government has had no strong reaction.”
“There is the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Human Rights Council and such other bodies, but no protest is being lodged anywhere. The Indian government takes no action either. India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) directed that compensation be paid for Felani’s killing, but the Indian government won’t accept this,” he notes with regret.
He points out that while India’s borders with Nepal or Bhutan throng with business, with ‘friendly neighbor’ Bangladesh the border regime is akin to that with sworn enemy Pakistan.
What is to be done? Kirity Roy is blunt on this: “Fight. We, the people, must fight against this. The Indian government has forcefully imposed the NRC, but the people are fighting against it. They don’t want it. They are opposed to it. So public resistance is the only hope.”
(South Asian Monitor)