A. M. K. Chowdhury
India is our big neighbour. India helped us during the War of Liberation of 1971. We always acknowledge it. We shall always remember India’s help till the last day of the world. As we cannot shift our country to any other places in the world, India will remain our neighbour forever. So, we expect neighbourly behaviour from India when both the countries have been enjoying deep-rooted tis on many sectors—politically , economically and culturally—-sharing common interests and views since Awami League (AL)-led government was formed.
1,000 Bangladeshis killed by BSF from 2000 to 2015
A news report said at least 46 Bangladeshis were killed by the BSF along the borders in 2015, according to an estimate by a human rights organization, Ain-O- Salish Kendra. Since 2000 , over 1000 people were killed at the hands of BSF until the end of last year. Besides, several thousand people were injured.
There were also incidents of rape cases commiied by the the BSF personnel.
But it appears from border killings of unarmed and innocent Bangladeshi citizens by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) every now and then that India does not want to behave reasonably with us. Though the BSF claimed that those killed along the borders are not innocent yet they are evidently unarmed.
15-year-old Felani shot dead
Felani was a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl. Her father arranged her marriage in Bangladesh. She returned to Bangladesh with her father from New Delhi, India, where the family had been illegally staying. On Friday, 7 January 2011 at about 8.30 am she and her father attempted to illegally cross the Bangladeshi-Indian border by climbing the barbed wire boundary using a ladder. The exact location was International Border No. 947, between 3 and 4 s pillar of Anantapur, Fulbari. Her father, Nuru Mia, crossed first. But when Felani tried to climb over the fence, her clothes got entangled in the wire, and she started screaming. Hearing her scream, the BSF members started shooting at her.
A BSF member, Amiya Ghosh, who was tried twice in BSF’s own court on charge of shooting to death a Bangladeshi teenage girl Felani Khatun along Kurigram border on January 7, 2011. But both the times he was acquitted. Her father went o the Indian Supreme Court (ISC) and filed a writ petition for fair trial.
Bangladesh has over 4,000 kilometres border, the fifth largest land border in the world. Border killings mostly take place in the Indian side by the BSF and there are hardly any reports of killings by the Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB).
Numerous useless discussions
There have been numerous discussions, flag meetings between BSF and BGB, and talks at ministerial levels between the two countries to curb border killings. But nothing seems to have developed so far. Border killings continue unabated. (see The Daily Observer, dated January 25, 2016).
Another report said 19 Bangladeshis between January to July 2016, 74 people in 2010, 31 in 2011, 38 in 2012, 29 in 2o13, 33 in 2014 and 46 in 2015 have been killed by the BSF along the borders. (see The Daily Naya Diganta, dated July 26)
Besides, there are also some cases where the victims were allegedly tortured and killed in BSF custody. Many others appeared to have fallen victims to bullets because they were too close to the border.
Bangladesh and India share 54 common rivers. Both the countries are in dispute over sharing of the Ganges water and the Teesta water.
River linking project to divert waters of common rivers
India’s mega river linking project is aimed at diverting the water of some of the common rivers by linking them with the canals. The river-linking projects involve 14 Himalayan rivers, including those flowing through Bangladesh and 16 peninsula rivers. Bangladesh being a lower riparian country has a lawful right to enjoy the benefits of common/international rivers. India is yet to sign the Teesta river water sharing pact. The Teesta river enters Bangladesh near Tin Bigha of Lalmonirhat district. Sharing of water of the rivers is necessary in the dry season. Bangladesh has to irrigate farming land with water from the Teesta during the dry season. Since Sikkim and West Bengal withdraw water from the Teesta, the flow has been drastically reduced to the detriment of the farmers.
India cannot do it unilaterally; if it does then it will be illegal. Upper riparian cannot interfere with the flow of the riverin a way which is substantially damaging the interest of lower riparian country. (see law and our rights, The Daily Star, dated August 4,2015).
Farakka barrage on the Ganges has already caused the south-west and north-east zones of Banglaesh to face increasing desertification and salinity intrusion wreaking havoc on the ecology and environment there. The Farakka barrage was commissioned by india caring little about Bangladesh’s concern as a neighbor. (the New Age, dated June 23, 2016)
As neighbouring country we allowed India to use Chittagong, Mongla and Ashuganj ports as per their demands. We have already been providing corridor facility to India. Heavy machinery for a power plant in Tripura and food grains transported from the west to north – east. We also allowed air transit facilities.
A news report said India has to pay Tk.192.22 for per ton of goods as transit fee. The transit fee was fixed at a Shipping Secretary level meeting in New Delhi in November 2015. Indian vehicles need to travel 1,650 kilometers to transport goods from Kolkata to Agartala through Guwhati. Now they will have to ross only 350 kilometers while they take a cross- border trip through Bangladesh’s Ashuganj port. India needs transit to carry goods through Ashuganj port to support its seven sister states : Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Monipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Prodesh. (The Daily Observer, dated May 26, 2016)
It may be pointed out here that the ‘core committee’ formed in 2011 under Mujibur Rahman, the then chairman, Tariff Commission, proposed Tk. 1058 (one thousand and fifty eight) per ton of goods as transit fee, considering transit related charges, which was reasonable. We would then get Tk. 10 lakh 58 thousand per 1000 tons of goods. Now we would get Tk. 1 lakh 92 thousand only. (The Daily Naya Diganta, dated May 29, 2016).
Mention may be made here that India had rebuffed our nation’s architect, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding President of Bangladesh when he requested access to Calcutta (now Kolkata) port in the immediate aftermath of our Liberation War in 1971 as both the major ports of Bangladesh were nonfunctional then. India also rejected President Ziaur Rahman’s request for just 16 miles of land transit through India for direct trade-link with Nepal. (The Holiday, dated September 10, 2010 page 5)
As we have a keen interest in developing life long relation with India for help, we hope India will not do anything wrong depriving Bangladesh of her lawful right in sharing water of common rivers. There will be no more border killings by the BSF. We expect India will behave reasonably.