November 11, 2011 : The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from MASUM, a human rights organisation working in West Bengal, concerning the case of torture of six innocent farmers by the Border Security Force (BSF) on mere suspicion. The incident happened when the BSF stooped the farmers for questioning while they were on their way to their farmlands. The BSF brutally assaulted the farmers until some other villagers intervened and pleaded the officers to stop. The BSF suspected the farmers to be cross-border smugglers.
The incident once again reiterates the brute force used by the BSF stationed along the Indo-Bangladesh border area against the innocent and poor villagers living in the area. Continued violence and brutality practiced by the BSF against the poor villagers, thereby alienating the community from the state, is probably an equally serious security threat to the country, in addition to infiltration of weapon, drug and human smugglers, across the Indo-Bangladesh border, against which the state or the union government has taken no creative action so far.
The victims in this case are: (1) Mr Abdur Rahman, son of Mr Ramjan Ali Sardar, aged about 27 years; (2) Mr Ramjan Sardar, son of Mr Ismail Sardar, aged about 62 years; (3) Mr Baburali Mondal, son of Mr Bahar Ali Mondal, aged about 48 years; (4) Mr Rasul Sardar, son of Mr Ramjan Sardar, aged about 36 years; (5) Mr Mahiuddin Gain, son of Mr Achmat Gain, aged about 52 years; (6) Mr Motiar Gain, son of late Mr Asmat Gain, aged about 53 years; all by occupation day-labourers and residing at Gobra village, under the jurisdiction of Swarupnagar Police Station, North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal.
The incident happened on 22 August 2011 at about 6am. At the time, the victims were moving towards their farmland carrying a bag of paddy on their head. When they reached a road crossing named “Tin Rasta More” near Gobindapur BSF Border Outpost (BOP), Gate number 18, two BSF officers in uniform from Gobindapur BOP stopped the farmers. The officers asked the victims as to what they were carrying on their head in the bag. They replied that they were carrying paddy for planting. Then the officers asked the victims to produce their identity card issued by the Election Commission of India. The victims showed their identity cards. Then the officers accused the victims of smuggling cattle on the previous night. The victims denied the allegations and they protested against the false allegation. This apparently provoked the officers and they started assaulting the victims. The officers assaulted the victims with wooden sticks and kicked and punched them. The officers also assaulted the victims with rifle butts on their head, shoulders and on their spine. The victims pleaded that they are on fast for the Muslim festival, but the officers did not pay any heed and abused the victims using filthy language even in the name of their religion. The victims soon fell on the ground while the officers continued to assault them. In the meantime some local people gathered there and told to the said officers that the victims were innocent and have never involved in smuggling. It is only then the officers let the victims go.
Once free from the custody and assault of the BSF officers, the victims returned home and sought medical treatment. They had suffered serious injuries from the assault and could not move for the next few days due to pain. They were also unable to go to work.
On 15 October the victims Abdur Rahman, Ramjan Sardar, Baburali Mondal, Rasul Sardar and Motiar Gain submitted a written complaint about the incident before the Additional Superintendent of Police, Barasat, North 24 Pargans and Mahiuddin Gain submitted a written complaint before the Superintendent of Police, Barasat, North 24 Pargans regarding the incident. However, so far the police have taken no action upon the complaint.
The BSF is posted along the Indo-Bangladesh border to guard the border against infiltration across the border, of smugglers who smuggle weapons, drugs, cattle, rice, medicines and even people. The Indo-Bangladesh border is relatively porous and is a known transit point for terrorists into and outside India. It is reported that militants receiving training, money and weapons in Nepal and Bangladesh use the Indo-Bangladesh border as their transit point, though such transit points are not limited to border regions along West Bengal state. In addition to criminals, innocent people also cross the border, mostly at night, from Bangladesh, who comes over to India to seek job. Indians living along the border also cross the border into Bangladesh for similar purposes, including to meet relatives and even to seek medical assistance. Most of the districts in West Bengal like North 24 Parganas are poor and lack even the minimum facilities like a public health centre or hospital the closer one go to the border region. The BSF is placed on duty in these regions to prevent such illegal crossing of persons from and to India. Yet the officers posted in these border regions are notorious for using brute force with impunity against anyone they come across, as it happened in this incident.
It is also reported that many officers, stationed along the border view Muslims, by default, as terrorists and worthy of nothing more than inhuman treatment. This runs contrary to the reality that Muslims who have been living in the region for generations overwhelmingly populate the border regions of West Bengal with Bangladesh. Extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, disappearances and other forms of custodial violence is rampant along the Indo-Bangladesh border, of which the BSF plays one of the most pivotal role in perpetuating such incidents with impunity. Despite the reportage of more than 300 of such cases over the past eight years by organisations like the MASUM and the AHRC, the state or union government has done nothing to end this impasse. Over the years, the atrocities committed by the BSF against the people living in the region have largely alienated the people from the state and the state agencies. This, according to the AHRC is an equally important security risk to the country and to the region, against which the government or the authorities have taken no sensible actions so far.
Source : www.humanrights.asia