"Other than in war situation, there’s no precedence of so many people being killed on a border"
The recent spike in the killings of civilians along the India-Bangladesh border has created a row between the border guards of two countries.
A meeting conducted between the senior border officials of two countries failed to break the ground, with both of them accusing each other of escalation. A flag meeting was called, after killing of seven Bangladeshi civilians in three days from Jan. 21-Jan. 23.
"Indian border guard's narrative on border killings at the meeting was unacceptable," Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, director of the Bangladesh Border Guards (BGBs) operations division told.
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officials had expressed regret at the killings but stated that they had to resort to firing as a measure of self-defense.
Ahmed said the statement was unacceptable and his side was not convinced, as the Indian side could not recover any weapon from the deceased.
Bangladesh is surrounded by India from three sides. The two countries share the world’s fifth-longest border at 4,156 kilometers (2582 miles).
India’s eastern metropolis of Kolkata, Deputy Inspector General of BSF, S. S. Guleria said his force had killed infiltrators who had entered into Indian territory as an act of self-defense.
“The criminals died as an act of self-defense by our BSF personnel, to prevent infiltration and smuggling. They died in a scuffle. We do not like. Those lives should not have been lost. But these criminals have been causing a lot of problems. We had raised this issue with the BGB in the flag meetings. Last year we lost 3 BSF personnel, while 45 got injured," he said.
Describing situation along the India-Bangladesh border very complex, Guleria who is in charge of South Bengal frontiers, said the trans-border crime has become a way of life for most of the border residents, who indulge in cattle smuggling.
Guleria said that these smugglers are armed with country made weapons and during the night they let loose cattle violently to overrun guards. “Many of our security men have got injured in the past due to their acts," he added.
"These lives should not have been lost, we agree, but can they explain what were these civilians doing on the Indian side of the border? They were killed on our side,” said another BSF official, who did not want to be named.
Ahmed, however, charged that the India side was not implementing the commitment that they had agreed to during various bilateral meetings. The commitments included either using non-lethal weapons or to detain civilians attempting to cross the border.
"We conveyed our concern over the deaths in the meeting. After analyzing the border killing incidents, we came to know that the BSF did not recover any weapons or bombs from the deceased. Therefore, the narrative put out by Indian BSF is not acceptable,” he added.
Both countries had committed to avoid opening fire at civilians and bring killings to zero.
“But they (BSF) are not meeting to their words,” said Ahmed.
At least 43 Bangladeshi citizens were killed by the BSF in 2019, a threefold increase from 14 in 2018, according to a report by rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK). At least 10 killings have also been reported since the beginning of 2020.