As many as 86 Bangladeshi civilians have been killed on the Indo-Bangladesh border, allegedly by the Indian security forces since 2018, a top official of the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) said on Friday in Guwahati.

The matter came up for discussion during the ongoing Director-General Level Border Coordination Conference of the BSF and the BGB, which is being held in Guwahati since December 22.

“In 2018, the number was three. In 2019, it was 35. Until December 18 this year, it is 48,” said Major General Shafeenul Islam, the Director-General of the BGB.

“It is a concerning issue not only for the BGB but for Bangladesh,” Islam said, adding that all the persons killed were Bangladeshi civilians.

Director-General of the Border Security Force (BSF) Rakesh Asthana said efforts were on to minimise these incidents. “It is a ticklish issue for both sides. We are trying to solve it in the most appropriate manner,” Asthana said.

He claimed it is criminals involved in smuggling who are getting killed when the security forces are left with no option but to fire at them.

“There is no killing of security forces. Killing is of the criminals who are indulging in smuggling,” Asthana said in response to a query from EastMojo.

“Unless we stop the criminal activities, this problem is not going to be solved,” Asthana said.

The BSF chief said the force is mostly using non-lethal weapons. “But when it becomes very difficult and personnel are surrounded and attacked, then, only in self-defense they fire, which results sometimes in killings, sometimes in injury. Even Indians have been killed,” Asthana said. Three Indian civilians have been killed in 2020, according to the BSF.

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The border guarding force used 822 stun grenades and there were 2,576 instances of the use of pump-action guns on the Indo-Bangladesh border, Asthana said, stressing on how the force preferred to use non-lethal weapons.

According to the BSF, 87% of the incidents have happened between 10 pm and 5 am, stressing on how criminals use darkness as a cover.

Asthana said the kingpins of the syndicates live in the hinterland and use locals to cross the border and carry out smuggling. “It is these people who are killed,” Asthana said, adding how the local police have also been sensitised on the issue.

Various syndicates operating on both sides of the border are involved in smuggling of mostly narcotics and cattle. Codeine-based cough syrups and Yaba tablets are being smuggled from India to Bangladesh, Asthana said. The latter are brought in from Myanmar and mostly transit through India.

Asthana said increased vigil by the BSF and BGB has led to a decline in smuggling. “But the trend is alarming,” he said stressing on coordination between the border forces of the two countries.

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The number of cattle smuggled from India to Bangladesh has also come down since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government came to power at the Centre.

This crackdown by the Indian authorities on the trade has led to shoring up of the local livestock and dairy industry in Bangladesh.

BGB Chief Islam claimed cattle smuggling is now a big concern for the Bangladeshi border forces as well.

“We are very concerned about cattle smuggling,” Islam said. “It is greatly affecting our farmers who are raising the cattle in Bangladesh. We are self-sufficient. We even produce more than what we need and that has been evident in the last two years,” he said adding the BGB has increased the vigil on the border so that this illegal smuggling does not take place.

However, the neighbouring country continues to import cattle from Myanmar. “Of course it legally comes from Myanmar. Everyday 400-600 cattle come from Myanmar,” Islam said.

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