‘Innocent’ trespassers go back to Bangladesh

BSF personnel guarding the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. File | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

On April 29, the border guarding forces arrested two Bangladeshi women at the Jeetpur border outpost in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.  The women had illegally crossed the border to meet a relative who was undergoing treatment for blood cancer in West Bengal.

On May 1, four Bangladeshi fishermen who had ventured into Indian waters while fishing in Padma river in the State’s Murshidabad district were arrested by the BSF. In both cases, the Border Security Force (BSF) handed over the people to the Border Guards Bangladesh. Almost every week there are incidents where people inadvertently cross the border.  

Between January 2021 and March 2022, the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF has handed over 187 Bangladeshi nationals to the BGB. Of them, 135 people had crossed the border in 2021 and 52 between January and March 2022. Sixty-three of those apprehended were women, 27 children and the remaining men.

 “Not everyone who crosses the border is a criminal or smuggler. There are many who inadvertently cross the border; this includes women and children and sometimes old people. There are people who are just curious to find the border or people visiting relatives. Our forces after interrogation hand these people to personnel of Border Guards Bangladesh through flag meetings,” S.S. Guleria, DIG and spokesperson of the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF, said .

According to the BSF official anyone involved in smuggling of any substance or people is dealt with firmly, arrested and handed over to the local police. The usual communication from the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF while handing over the nationals of the neighbouring country is “humanity and goodwill”.

 However, there is more than that “humanity and goodwill’ while handing over the nationals of Bangladesh to their border guarding forces. The South Bengal frontier of the BSF, which has a jurisdiction of about 913 km in West Bengal, from Sundarbans in the south to Malda in north, guards the more porous border along the entire Eastern Theatre. A large part of the border is riverine with rivers running along the borders. The sheer number of people arrested for crossing the border illegally is also overwhelming. In 2021, the South Bengal Frontier of the BSF arrested 2036 Bangladeshi nationals for illegally crossing the borders. The figure of people from Bangladesh arrested from 2020 was 3060.

The prisons in the State are full of nationals from Bangladesh who are arrested for crossing the border illegally.  The Prison Statistics of India’s ( PSI) report for the year 2020 points out that there are 4,926 foreigners lodged in prisons of the State, of which 1,982  (40 %) are in prison in West Bengal. Most of these prisoners are undertrials and Bangladeshi nationals. The BSF’s move of allowing people to return to Bangladesh saves the law enforcing agencies from long arduous trial of such people and prevents overcrowding in the State’s prisons.

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Printable version | May 8, 2022 7:58:21 pm |