Other States

Apprehension of interference in State's jurisdiction baseless: top BSF Bengal official

The border guarding force's Inspector General for south Bengal Anurag Garg said the enhancement of BSF's jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km will help the State prevent trans-border crimes and infiltration.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Border Security Force (BSF) has allayed apprehensions about probable conflicts with West Bengal police following enhancement of the paramilitary force's jurisdiction, and said the concern stemmed from a "shallow understanding" of laws.

The border guarding force's Inspector General for south Bengal Anurag Garg said the enhancement of BSF's jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km will help the State prevent trans-border crimes and infiltration.

Without naming any political party, Mr. Garg rejected claims that one-third of the territory of West Bengal will be under the control of the BSF, insisting it conveys a false notion that the central force will have policing powers akin to that of the State police.

Also read: BSF jurisdiction: parties in Punjab oppose Centre’s decision

"The impression in some quarters that the notification of increase of jurisdiction under BSF will bring it in conflict with the State police and is against the federal structure of India is completely baseless and mischievous.

"All persons apprehended by BSF for illegal entry into or illegal exit from the country without valid travel documents will be handed over to the police as before for investigation and for busting organised gangs involved in human trafficking rackets," he told PTI in an interview.

He said the notification by the central government relates only to Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, Passport Act, 1967, and Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

"The effect of this notification is to increase the Area of Responsibility (AoR) of BSF so that it can exercise the already existing powers to check infiltration up to 50 km inside the international border, up from the erstwhile limit of 15 km," Mr. Garg said.

"Apprehensions of interference are uncalled for. Powers given to the BSF are very limited," Additional Director General of the force, Y B Khurania said.

"Even now when we conduct raids, we inform the state police and are also accompanied by them," he told PTI.

Asked to react to allegations by some political parties and NGOs that the notification of increase in the area of responsibility of the BSF is a "backdoor interference" by the Centre in the jurisdiction of states, Garg said such apprehensions are "entirely baseless and perhaps due to a shallow understanding of laws".

He said, "It will instead help West Bengal prevent transborder crimes and infiltration, dealing with which must be putting a heavy burden on its resources.

The comments by senior BSF officials came in the backdrop of protest by various non-BJP led state governments against the new guidelines which they termed as an attack on the federal structure.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday criticised the Centre's action, calling it an attempt to interfere with the country's federal structure.

She has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to immediately withdraw the Union Ministry of Home Affairs' notification.

The Centre has amended the BSF Act and authorised the paramilitary force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within an increased territory of 50 km instead of 15 km from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

On allegations that one-third of West Bengal's territory will now come under the BSF, Mr. Garg said it is a "false notion".

"It is wrong to say that (post the notification) one-third of the territory of West Bengal will come under the jurisdiction of BSF as it conveys a false notion that the force will have policing powers similar to that of State police. The mandates of the BSF and State police are entirely different. BSF works with the cooperation of the State police and is not parallel to it," he said.

BSF regularly conducts joint patrolling and operations with the State police, he said.

"The new notification will help BSF in preventing infiltration. BSF mainly relies on human intelligence. Considering the porous and riverine borders that are prone to floods, an offender can often infiltrate beyond 15 km from the international border before his/her presence is detected. Increasing the depth up to which BSF can arrest the infiltrator (50 km) is in the interest of national security," Mr. Garg said.

He also rejected suggestions that it will lead to a spurt in human rights violation.

"Such apprehensions, too, are baseless. In my three months as IG of South Bengal Frontier of BSF, I am yet to come across a fresh case of human rights violation by a personnel of the force. But there have been incidents where transborder criminals have challenged BSF troops and injured them knowing fully well that the troops seldom resort to firing, even in self-defence, on the Indo-Bangla border," Mr. Garg said.

Many past complaints of alleged human rights violation by the paramilitary force have been found to be false on enquiry. The complaints were perhaps made only to keep the BSF troops under pressure, he added.

Bangladesh and West Bengal share a 2,216 km international border.

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