Indo-Bangla relations: Security forces pledge to curb cross-border crimes, agree to new fencing

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Oct 09, 2016, 01.56 PM(IST) Written By: Saad Hammadi

Cattle smuggling along the border is believed to be operating out of a nexus between people of Bangladesh and India in connivance with the BSF. Photograph:( Getty )

India and Bangladesh have agreed to install a single row fencing across the borders between the two countries to reduce cattle smuggling and cut down border killings, a meeting this week between directors general of security forces of the two countries concluded.

Killings of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians remain unresolved despite efforts to improve bilateral issues between India and Bangladesh. According to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), at least 23 civilians have been killed between May and October.

"The numbers represent only 15 to 20 percent of those killed," says Kirity Roy, secretary of Indian human rights organisation Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM). Eighty to 85 per cent people are Indian citizens killed by India's Border Security Force, he tells WION.

Almost all the killings are associated with cattle smuggling that operate out of a nexus between people of Bangladesh and India in connivance with the BSF, says Roy. But the killings take place when there is a fallout with the security force.

Bangladesh and India in the past couple of years have settled adverse possession of lands where nearly 37,000 people have been residing in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and another 14,000 people have been living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves inside India.

In August last year, the two countries agreed to resolve the adverse possessions by swapping the enclaves. In a development, the Bangladeshi authorities last month enlisted 10,500 members of the enclaves into its voting database and said smart ID cards will be issued to them soon, local news agency reports.

Despite the resolutions related to the border issues being carried out, recurrent killing of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians hinder the bilateral relation between the countries. The two countries share a bilateral trade of US $6 billion, more than 90 per cent of which is Indian exports to Bangladesh.

Ninety-five per cent of the killings are related to cattle smuggling, said Major General Aziz Ahmed, director general of Border Guard Bangladesh at a press briefing on Friday.

The killing of 15-year-old Felani Khatun in 2015 in BSF firing stirred protests across Bangladesh and prompted the trial of a BSF trooper in Indian court. Felani was returning to her home in Bangladesh with her father from India. BSF trooper Amiya Ghosh, who was charged with her killing in 2011, was acquitted last year after facing trial in two phases for inconclusive and insufficient evidence against him. 

"Bangladesh government and BGB have confirmed us to cover all international boundaries through single row fencing," KK Sharma, director general of Border Security Force told reporters after the conclusion of directors general-level meeting on October 4.

“We should have joint efforts to curb issues like trans-border crimes, cattle smuggling, arms smuggling [and] human trafficking and also drugs that goes into Bangladesh,” said Major General Aziz Ahmed, director general of Border Guard Bangladesh.

“Now that border demarcation has taken place, there is a desire to avoid any further border killings,” Farooq Sobhan, former Bangladesh high commissioner to India told WION.

In 2010, the BSF and BGB signed agreements to introduce non-lethal weapons like pump action guns and rubber bullets to contain border intrusion. At a press briefing on Friday, General Ahmed told reporters that most of the civilians who are killed at the borders are targetted at eyes, head and chest leading up to their deaths.