Trigger Happiness vs. Flag Meeting Readiness: Felani and other Bangladeshis killed by Indian BSF
By: Sarwar Morshed
Can you name the most trigger happy border force in the World? Perhaps the images of blood-thirsty Israeli forces loom large in your mental horizon. Or if you are well-read in matters related with bootlegging, smuggling, illegal migration and human trafficking, the American forces deployed at the Mexico border cross your mind and make a parade. Unfortunately, neither the Americans nor the Israeli forces are superlatively trigger-happy. Our neighbouring BSF has bagged the honour.
Is BSF trigger happy at the Chinese border? Not at all. Do they display the ‘unchilding, unfathering’, daredevil attitude at the Pakistan border? As there are retaliations from the other side of the border, they exercise appreciable self-restraint at that frontier. But at the vast Bangladesh–India border, the BSF personnel are so madly in love with cold-blooded murder that the acronym has undergone total lexical and semantic shifts in Bangladesh. To the Indians, BSF stands for Border Security Forces but to the traumatized Bangladeshis, it stands for Bangladeshi Slaughtering Force! Here they are votaries of Yama or Thanatos. Reports from different national, trans-national, international and human rights watchdogs show that BSF is the most trigger-happy border force in the World and Bangladesh has emerged as the unrivalled hinterland for the Indians to procure and process ‘raw-materials’ in pursuance of the stigmatic feat. More people are killed at the Bangladesh–India border than anywhere else in the World. Even the Israel-Palestine border does not experience this sort of barbaric, unilateral killing during peaceful interludes.
Are we at war with India? Why are the Bangladeshi people killed by the BSF indiscriminately? Because they are trespassers? Smugglers? Human traffickers? Can smuggling take place unilaterally? Why aren’t the Indian smugglers shot dead by BSF? When valuable items like leather and fossil fuel are smuggled into India from Bangladesh, why are the BSF members all on a sudden metamorphosed into ardent followers of Buddha? Have you heard of any Bangladeshi ever being punished while smuggling contraband drugs like phensidyl into our territory? Have you heard of any action taken by the Indians against the illegal drug factories set up along Bangladesh border? As smuggling is a transaction (though illegal), it entails two parties. Why should the poor Bangladeshis be made scapegoats all the times? Have our border force personnel ever killed any Indian involved in smuggling in the border areas? Indians are trespassing very frequently, especially at the Sylhet-Assam border. The Indian Khasias (allegedly backed by BSF) are even plundering Bangladeshi cattle, crops and at times looting homesteads. Even under situations like this our BGB has remained composed, serene and unprovoked. None of the infiltrators has been caught, detained and punished. Shooting is a distant matter, out of question!
Why are the Indians phenomenally, unprecedentedly aggressive at the friendly Bangladesh border? Have a look at their activities and you will find the catalogue of their (mis)deeds- forcible occupation of Bangladeshi land, construction inside our territory, encroachment, abduction of livestock, unprovoked firing, violating both the border and Bangladeshi women and so on and so forth. When the people of border areas try to resist the invaders, our forces open fire on their compatriots. This is one of the reasons why the Indo-Bangla border has become one of the most dangerous frontiers in the World. Bangladesh–India is going through the most intimate phase of friendly relations. Does friendly relation approve of (friendly!) fire? Think of the fateful day our Felani fell. How gruesome! How barbaric! Can this kind of brutality be expected from a friendly nation? India– the land of Mahatma? The land of ahimsa! Is it the India that punished her macho hero Salman Khan for killing deer? You punish your super-hero for killing deer and reward your murderous border personnel for killing innocent, unarmed Bangladeshi people by saying that they do it in self-defense. What a farce! Our government should demand immediate unreserved apology and compensation from India for the unpardonable murder of Felani and other Bangladeshi nationals. Moreover, initiatives should be taken by both Bangladesh and India (as penance) so that the UN declare 7th of January (the day Felani was murdered) as the Safe International Border Day.
The killing spree of BSF is still going on unabated. Umpteenth times have they promised not to kill Bangladeshis and each time they remind the foolish Bangladeshis that promises are given to be broken. The most lucrative border (from the viewpoint of illegal migration etc.) in the World is Mexico-US border. Never have I seen any report in the media about any case of killing/shooting of Mexicans or ‘pilgrims to El Dorado’ by the US border keepers. The KSA-Yemen border is very attractive to the petro-dollar seekers. Are Saudis killing the Yemenis at the border? Think of Italy, Spain and Greece. Are they opening fire at the multitudes of illegal immigrants who want to enter these golden lands through different zones of the Mediterranean? Opportunity hunters are sneaking into South Africa from different countries of Africa. Do the South African forces shoot them like birds?
True, a segment of our people in the border areas are involved in trespassing and smuggling ( and this is the case with almost all the borders in the World). But doesn’t it take two to make a quarrel? Shouldn’t the Indians control their own citizens first? Or if they discourage smuggling of valuable goods from their land, why should they behave like the ideal practitioners of Gandhian principles when exclusive items are smuggled into their territory from Bangladesh?
According to Indian reports published last year, Bangladesh is the sixth- biggest source of remittance for India. Many Indians are living and working in Bangladesh without any valid documents for years. So, what grave wrong is there if a poor Bangladeshi like Felani trespasses? Cannot offenders be detained, tried or handed over as is the practice in the civilized World? Despite intense rivalry, China enjoys MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status in America. On the contrary, India has virtually bestowed MHN (Most Hated Nation) status on Bangladesh (India’s behavior and border incidents with China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh prove it unmistakably). We give love (and of course, remittance, billion dollar business and now transit) and in exchange they give us hatred and corpses of our nationals.
Fault, indeed, lies with us. Our leaders dry hoarse their throats in the name of Indo-Bangla friendship. A minister last year even went to the extent of declaring that charging taxes from India for transit/trans-shipment would be indecent. Bangladesh has opened her sky for the Indian tv channels. But not a single TV channel from Bangladesh is allowed in India. In fact, all this happens because of the unpardonable failure of our leaders. They never dare disturb the universe of their Indian counterparts (lest they should fell into disfavor).
How long would our leadership remain phlegmatic about the unresolved issues especially the border incidents? Even the BGP (the Myanmar border force), probably being influenced by the unprotested and unchallenged killings by BSF at the Bangladesh border, has started to shoot and kill Bangladeshis. This is a clear indication that if the BGB personnel are not professionally trained and allowed to do what is deemed fit on the part of border forces all over the World, the very existence of Bangladesh would be threatened. Requesting and making entreaties to the neighbouring frontier forces for flag meetings and seeking the dead bodies of the slain compatriots is not the sole duty of border guards. They must negotiate, inform the higher authorities of the situations, resist infiltrators and where necessary retaliate. Only then the parallel lines of flag meeting readiness and trigger happiness would meet at a much desired point of intersection- friendship happiness, in the true sense of the term.
Sarwar Morshed is Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh
The Oslo Times