Recently Foreign Policy magazine listed world’s most horrible and dangerous international borders, in which India-Bangladesh border has taken a significant place. It is not at all surprising, but considering the recent events if the border would have been topped that nearly could describe the real scenario. Between 2000 and 2015 a total of 1252 people were killed in India-Bangladesh border by Indian border guards, Border Security Force (BSF). Can we make out it as an unprecedented sing of the limitless generosity of a friend state?
Two days ago, the accused for killing of Bangladeshi girl Felani Khatun Amiya Ghosh, the great hero, was acquitted by the court. Let’s have a look on what comes out after analyzing the law and our position.
Felani Khatun Murder
On January 7, 2011 Bangladeshi young girl Felani Khatun was returning Bangladesh with her father from Cooch Bihar district of West Bengal crossing the barbed wire near the Chowdhory Hat border camp of BSF. She was to be married off within some days; perhaps they went to India to purchase things for marriage and to meet their relatives living opposite side the border. Brokers helped them put three ladders on the barbed wire fence. Her father crossed the barbed wire, while Felani was crossing the border, the guarding constable of BSF 181 battalion Amiya Ghosh opened fire on Felani from his service rifle. Villagers from both sides of the border saw the hanging dead-body of Felani early in the next morning. A local journalist captured picture of hanging dead-body of Felani by his mobile phone. Subsequently that picture spread throughout the news media in Bangladesh, India, and across the world.
The Trail of Felani Khatun Murder
Facing the huge public outrage after the spread of photo, BSF filed a case against its own member in August 2012. Amiya Ghosh was made accused for culpable homicide under section 304 of the Indian Panel Code and related provisions of BSF law. BGB 45 Battalion commander Lt. Col. Zia Ul Haq Khaled went there to observe the trial. Felani’s father Nurul Islan and Uncle Abdul Hanif went there as witness. According to the BSF Act, General Security Forces Court (GSFC) was composed of five officials headed by the Assam-Meghalaya Frontier DIG, S. P. Trivedi.
Many thought, for the first time the murderer BSF member Amiya Ghosh would be awarded appropriate punishment. According to Section 48 of the BSF Act, if the accused is proved guilty he may be sentenced to death or imprisonment for life. But the verdict on September 13, 2013 acquitted him on the ground of insufficient and inconclusive evidence.
In reality, it was a mockery by the name of trial. Actually, this farcical trial instigated the killing of Bangladeshis by BSF personnel. There is no doubt that Amiya Ghosh killed Felani, but He was acquitted. Acquittal of a killer surely conveyed the message to other members of the BSF that killing Bangladeshi citizens is not an offense. They can continue the killing without being worried about the trial.
We have been witnessing the practical implementation of the outcome of that verdict for last few years. Think about the first half of this year, from January to June 23 Bangladeshi citizens were killed, whereas 35 people were killed in the whole 2014. Besides that, in these six months 35 people were injured and 17 were alleged to have been abducted.
Review of the Trial Verdict
Facing the pressure from various human rights organizations, the BSF head ordered to review the trial verdict. Generally, in a review the primary judgment is scrutinized for probing any mistake of law.
In September 2014, the review of the trial verdict was started at BSF Sonari camp in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The same five officers of the early trial court conducted the review. However, in the review a new testimony of one person was said to be taken. To take part in the proceeding, Felani’s father was taken to India. Felani’s father went to India from Bangladesh along with four persons including a lawyer, the public prosecutor from Kurigram Judge Court.
After all, on last July 2, 2015 the review court upheld the trial court’s verdict for acquittal of Amiya Ghosh from the murder charge of Felani. The verdict is virtually a blank check for BSF members about the life of Bangladeshi citizens. However, facing the enormous criticism BSF officials charged their own court’s verdict that acquitted Amiya Ghosh saying that the director of BSF may dismiss the verdict. He has the power to dismiss the verdict of trial court. There is no chance left for third time proceeding of this case as GSFC does not allow more than two.
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) and Felani Killing
A human rights organization in India Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) has decided to challenge the decision of the GSFC verdict. The head of MASUM kiriti Roy told the BBC, “The Supreme Court has specified that for any injustice done any one can come to the court to redress. The Supreme Court has changed the concept of the past. We have also talked with Felani’s family.”
According to MASUM’s say, they had found out some legal issues in GSFC verdict, which were contrary to the Constitution of India and principles of natural justice. They raised a question, “who was to decide that Amiya Ghosh was the only accused for Felani’s murder? Where Felani was killed, forty people passed away the fence before her. BSF and BGB personnel charged money from everyone. It is well recorded. So the people who allowed the illegal work, Amiya Ghosh’s senior or junior colleagues, why they should not be held guilty?”
Kiriti Roy also said that under Article 1 of the Indian Constitution everyone has the right to life. Not just the citizens of India but every persons living within the land have this right. . Felani’s murder also violated that right given under Indian constitution.
Bangladesh’s Cooperation in the Investigation and Trial of the Felani’s Murder
According to MASUM’s statement, before the proceeding by GSFC they once tried to file a case in Indian court for Felani’s murder, but they did not get support and the necessary documents from Felani’s family. MASUM’s two human rights activists were refused to give Bangladeshi visa by Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh, Kolkata. MASUM’s these two human rights activists were MASUM’s Chairman and former Justice of the Sikkim High Court Moloy Sen Gupta, and organization’s top official Kiriti Roy. Kiriti Roy complained, he went to the Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh, Kolkata six times in a week for visa and each time he was refused.
More interestingly, after this shocking murder in India-Bangladesh border by of Indian border guards MASUM was seen more concerned than our own human rights organizations. Human rights organizations in Bangladesh finished their responsibility by responding with “deeply concerned” type statement. After killing a citizen of our country, this is our position, courage and capability to seek the remedy.
Other side of the currency – two years ago, in a case of India, we saw a reflection of their ability and patriotism. Here, India was on the seat of plaintiff, the defendant Italy.
Activity of Indian Government and Civil Society in Enrica Lexie case (Indian Fishermen Murder)
On 15 February 2012, Italian marines, operating as part of a Vessel Protection Detachment (VPD) on-board Italian-flagged commercial oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie, allegedly opened fire on the St. Antony killing two Indian fishermen on board. The incident has sparked a conflict of opinions over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity between the governments of India and Italy. In addition, it continues to cause diplomatic tension between the two nations. While debate regarding whether crime spot’s identity under international water or Indian Territory and whether India had the jurisdiction to try foreign soldiers were on progress, the trial for murder charges against the accused Italian soldiers begun in Indian court.
Orbiting the murder of these two Indian men the diplomatic relation between these two countries reached to the worst level. On one hand, India pressured the Italian Ambassador to India and on the other hand Italy also announced to retrieve the bullet from the mailbox of Indian Embassy in Italy. However, facing the pressure from India, Italy handed over two Marine soldiers to India. Taking the advantage of a blur of international law of the sea, Indian government began the trial of the Italian soldiers and continued it. Even Italy was forced to provide the compensation of one million rupees to the families of the two dead fishermen. This trial is still ongoing in the Indian courts. This is the ultimate success for Indian government, its civil society and the court.
This is our neighboring country India, probably our flexible and enslaved foreign policy made the blood of Bangladeshi citizens more negligible than water.
Few days ago Myanmar abducted a member of our border guard and made a story of terrorism after torture. Most alarmingly, Bangladesh has become a safe route for drug smuggling and human trafficking. On the other hand we are celebrating by speeding extravagantly the new status of Bangladesh as lower middle class country that is earned through the cost of blood of our citizens struggling outside the country. It is a HOPE we have been looking for from our politicians, civil society members, academicians, bureaucrats, and, after all, our citizens. Is there anyone to let us dream and make us feel that our citizens are worth for being saved from the bullets of our neighboring friend (!) state?