Non-lethal strategy effective but smugglers emboldened on India-Bangladesh border

SILIGURI: Implementation of non-lethal weapons along India-Bangladesh border by the Border Security Force (BSF) has brought instances of border killings and injuries down by over half in the last few years but the incidents of attacks on Indian security force personnel by cattle smugglers have witnessed an escalation, which is a matter of concern for the BSF.
As many as 45 BSF personnel were injured by the smugglers in the first half of this year when they were stopping them to smuggle the cattle. On July 12, a group of cattle smugglers threw grenade on a BSF jawan, in which he lost his hand and suffered serious injuries. The soldier is still under treatment.
Since adoption of non-lethal measure in 2010-11, over 800 BSF soldiers were injured in attacks by the cattle smugglers and drug peddlers. However, the BSF is of the view that the strategy has been fruitful as the number of killings along the international border has declined significantly.
While interacting with a delegation of 14 visiting Indian journalists who were on a tour to Bangladesh through Siliguri under Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between the BSF and the Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB), North Bengal Frontier IG Ajmal Singh Kathat said, “We respect the human rights act. We take non-lethal strategy but sometimes they attack on our party also as there has been lot of cases where our personnel got injured. First, we try to use non-lethal but in case of threat to our lives we use the lethal strategy.”
It is significant to note here that before the implementation of the strategy killings along the border were over 100 a year but now the figure has been reduced to 2-3 a year.
Last year, a single case of death was reported while the number has gone up to seven this year. Mr Kathat was of the view that the jawans resort to extreme measure only when they have no other option but to save their lives.
“The criminals from the Bangladesh side especially involved in cattle smuggling and drugs peddling, arms and ammunition smuggling and fake currency are continuously try to cross our border and they are taking the advantage of our non-lethal strategy as well as we have better relationship with Border Guard of Bangladesh, taking the advantage of both the things they continuously try,” the BSF officer said, adding that the security force is keeping strict vigil along 937 kms international border, which is under his purview.
The BGB had alleged that the killing of Bangladeshi nationals is on rise. It is interesting to mention here that cattle smugglers are considered as cattle traders in Bangladesh after paying 500 takka to custom department at entry point on the border.
In an interaction with the visiting Indian journalists in Rangpur, North West Region Commander of BGB Brigadier Jalal Goni Khan had admitted that the cattle smuggling could not be stopped completely as it is a matter of livelihood.
“We are against the killings of Bangladeshi civilians. Even if they have committed any crime, the rule of law should take the course,” Brigadier Jalal said, adding that the relations between both the forces are at peak and “we want this to be continued.”
The BGB had claimed that 16 people were killed in 2014; 26 in 2015; 17 in 2016; 10 in 2017; 6 in 2018, and 15 in 2019 while the BSF refuted the statistics and said the number was 11, 11, 9 and seven between 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively.
As per BSF, in 2015, 22 Bangladeshi nationals were killed while 16 and 14 deaths were recorded in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Last year saw only one death while seven have died in 2019. Till now 48 Director General level talks have been held between BSF and BGB.