Human Rights Watch report illuminates indiscriminate use of force by the BSF

Stating that more than 1,000 people had been killed in the last decade in firing by the Border Security Force (BSF) along the India-Bangladesh border, a report by Human Rights Watch released here on Thursday has recommended that the government ensure that security forces do not use indiscriminate force when checking cross-border crimes.

The report titled “Trigger Happy — Excessive use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border,” documents the experiences of families whose members were killed in these firings as well as instances of torture, arbitrary detention and indiscriminate use of force on people living in areas around the border. The research was conducted with the help of two local NGOs — MASUM in Kolkata and ODHIKAR in Dhaka.  

After an official visit to Dhaka in September, where the issue was raised by officials of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Raman Srivastava, Director-General of the BSF, had said that his troops were only firing at criminals who were entering Indian territory.

“It is true that a lot of illegal activities, including smuggling and trafficking, occur on the India-Bangladesh border, but smuggling is not a crime that warrants the death penalty,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The BSF justifies the killings citing self-defence reasons or that the suspects were evading arrest, but in none of the police reports filed has a bomb or firearm been found on the person. Most of the time they only have sickles on them, she added.

There being a de facto shoot-at-sight order in place indicated that the standard procedure itself was at fault, she said.

Ms. Ganguly also pointed out that “a culture of impunity had set in” among the security forces, as no accountability was demanded from them.

The police do not file FIRs when the families of the victims wish to register police complaints against the BSF, she said.

Kirity Roy, secretary of MASUM, said that the organisation had approached the courts on 19 occasions and received orders directing the police to register the cases and start an investigation, but there had been no development in any of the cases.

Ms. Ganguly said that Human Rights Watch had approached officials of the Home Ministry with the report and received a positive response.

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