On the BSF atrocities

Posted in AL, BNP, Border killings, foreign policy, India, politics, Rights by jrahman on March 7, 2012

The last post on this topic is now the most popular in this blog, showing how much people care about this issue.  This post covers various aspects of the issue that seems to come up again and again in discussions.  Some of it is going to challenge popular perceptions.  Others repeat of what I’ve already said in this blog and UV.

Details over the fold.

1. It’s getting better.

From the Deshi cyberspace or TV scene, one will get the perception that the BSF has ramped up its killing spree since AL’s return to power, and it’s the current government’s ‘spineless’ pro-Indian foreign policy that is to be blamed for this problem.  I certainly expected this perception to be supported by data.  Imagine my surprise then to find that things have actually gotten better in the border!

Data sources: extensive (though not exhaustive) google search, Odhikar, Murderers and Marauders, personal correspondence with human rights activists.

So, the single worst year in the past decade in terms of the number of BSF ‘kills’ — 147 in 2006.  Now, do you remember Mr Morshed Khan grilling the Indian High Commissioner or Mahmudur Rahman’s fiery TV sermon? No, I don’t either.  Just like some of our progressives-seculars become concerned about minority persecution only when BNP is in power, some nationalists and defenders of sovereignty care about BSF killings only when AL is in power.

Some might quibble about the veracity of this data.  Data between 2007 and 2010 are from Odhikar, hardly a pro-AL organisation.  I do not vouch for the accuracy of every data point, and will update the chart if better data is presented.  But I would be very surprised if the overall shape of the chart is fundamentally wrong.

Six has been killed so far in 2012 — at that rate the death toll will be 33 by year’s end.  Of course, 33 dead is 33 death too many.  But let’s have a bit of perspective here please.  Contrary to the popular perceptions, the border has actually become safer in recent times.

2. Bengal is unique.

Another point raised repeatedly is that ‘BSF doesn’t behave this way in other borders’.  This observation is true at a superficial level, but is meaningless when one thinks about it carefully.

India’s borders with other countries are not really comparable with the border with Bangladesh.  With China, Burma, Bhutan and much of Nepal and Pakistan, the border is through forests, mountains or deserts — where no one lives near or crosses the border, BSF doesn’t kill anyone.  Parts of the border with China and Pakistan are also heavily militarised.  Nepal and Bhutan are not comparable with Bangladesh because these are two countries with whom India has open borders, where not only people can move through without immigration restrictions, but also where the Indian rupee is accepted alongside the national currencies.

And more importantly, there is substantial difference in terms of BSF killings even within the Indo-Bangla border.  Look at the map below (taken from here).  Between March 2009 and February 2012, BSF didn’t kill anyone in the Bangladesh-Meghalaya or Bangladesh-Mizoram borders.  Bangladesh-Paschimbanga border, on the other hand, is a very different matter.


So, what’s going on here?  The BSF sends the violent types to West Bengal, and the wimps to Meghalaya or Mizoram?

Dear reader, Bengal is unique.  If you haven’t been to the border, you wouldn’t know how crazily the Radcliffe Line cuts.  Arguably, the border between Indian and Pakistani Punjabs is just as ‘unnatural’.  But that border was hardened by the death trains to and from Lahore and Amritsar in August 1947.  Not so in Bengal.

Next time you hear about ‘BSF doesn’t behave like this elsewhere’, remeber that there is no place like Bengal.

3. Not about illegal immigration or security threat.

That map also puts into question two other talking points — that BSF needs to deter illegal immigrants, or that it’s about securing the border against terrorists.

Are there undocumented Bangladeshis in India?  Yes there are.  Whether they are net drag on India is something I’d leave for a separate post.  For now, let’s assume that India needs to defend itself from the undocumented migrants.  How come BSF is so skewed in its deterrence?  They don’t care about the demographic change Bangladeshis are allegedly causing in Assam or Tripura?

And if this is about national security, then why the killings aren’t concentrated in the border with North East India?  Last I heard, it was those states, not Paschimbanga, facing militancy/secessionism.

4. BSF is a mafia gang …

If you’re not convinced by the map, look through this archive.  It’s hard to discern a clear pattern supporting the ‘BSF kills illegal immigrants’ thesis.  The infamous Felani case — where the victim was crossing the border back to Bangladesh with her family, who lived undocumentedly in India — seems to be relatively rare.  Most of the victims seem to be ‘cattle traders’ or people living in the border areas.  The case of Habibur Rahman, who was tortured over bribe, seems very common.

I posit that the anecdotal evidence doesn’t suggest a ‘shoot to kill’ policy set in New Delhi.  Rather, it seems to me that the local BSF units, posted in the Bangladesh-Paschimbanga border, acts as a mafia gang, extorting local people who cross the uniquely porous border for many reasons including cattle trade.  As far back as 2006, BSF admitted that it had a corruption problem (and illegal immigration wasn’t the main challenge).

5. … that can be disciplined.

Yes, one way to stop the killing would be if people stopped crossing the border. But anyone familiar with the human geography of the border between two Bengals would not make that suggestion. If we want to stop the killing, we will have to do two things — legalise cattle trade, and discipline the BSF.  Let me focus on the second point here.

Lant Pritchet, a development professor at the Kennedy School, calls India a ‘flailing state’ whose organs are chaotic and dysfunctional.  There is a huge literature about how the Indian state fails its poor citizens abysmally, even as it has world class institutions at the elite level.  So it’s not at all surprising that BSF is allowed to be an indisciplined criminal gang in Bengal, where the payoff from criminality is high.

But that doesn’t mean the BSF cannot be disciplined.  I contend that if a few jawans are tried and convicted for murder or rape or other such crimes that carry capital punishment in India, and if such capital punishment is actually enforced, we would see a significant further drop in the atrocities.

The question is now whether this can be done.  The question is whether this will be done.  As things stand, Indian authorities — politicians and bureaucrats in New Delhi — will do nothing.  They have no reason to.  Politicians won’t do anything unless there is a political benefit from doing it.  Bureaucrats won’t change the status quo unless their political masters tell them to (and often they will resist the political masters).

That is the hard reality we need to grapple with.

6. Indian civil society is an ally.

There is a tendency in Bangladesh to think of India as a homogenous, monolithic entity.  This idiotic — there is no polite way of saying it — belief cuts across the political spectrum.  The reality of India is, in Rushdie’s celebrated terms, one of ‘teeming multitudes’.  How can the plight of people living along the Radcliffe Line in Bengal be heard in the cacophony that is Indian democracy?

Not through fiery rhetoric in Amar Desh or Sachalayatan.  Nor through infantile hacking of Indian websites.  However, persistent writing, in English, in the Indian media — blogs, newspapers, magazines — will make a difference.  The supposedly ‘pro-Indian’ Zafar Sobhan has actually been raising this issue consistently in the Indian media for a while.  Yours truly has written in a progressive Indian blog on the issue.

And it is making a difference at the margin.  In January 2010, Asif Saleh and I failed to get the issue raised in a major Indian paper.  In January 2011, Felani’s tragic murder was broken to the world by Ananda Bazar Patrika.  This January, the torture of Habibur Rahman was shown in NDTV, and the Hindu editorialised on it.

It won’t be easy to get the Indian government to move.  a few dozen murders in Bengal is not a priority for the beast that is Indian bureaucracy or politics.  But India does have a vibrant civil society, and with enough pressure the Indian state machinery does react.  Citizen activism in Bangladesh needs to be more constructively channeled through cross-border solidarity so that there can be more pressure in Delhi.

7. Politics is local.

Recent efforts by Prothom Alo and Times of India is a hugely welcome move in the direction of cross-border citizens’ activism. Not surprisingly though, Mahmudur Rahman is upset by this.  Fortunately for Bangladesh, he isn’t in charge of Bangladeshi foreign policy.  Unfortunately, people who are in charge don’t seem to take the issues as seriously as it should be taken.

Politics being what it is, can we blame AL though?  The Awami leadership isn’t keen on this because it thinks the issue is a wedge to beat up AL, just like many BNPwallahs think, rightly, that many ‘progressive issues’ are really about beating up BNP.

How do we break out of this cycle?  It’s easy to denounce our leaders for their failures.  But it’s about time we asked ourselves what we are doing to convince our leaders that this is a national issue that should be above partisan point scoring.

24 Responses

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  1. tacit said, on March 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Great post. The part on national security seems a bit weak; I don’t think the map conclusively proves anything.

  2. Rumi said, on March 7, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I hear That Dr. Gawhar Rizvi, advisor to Bangladeshi Prime Minister is looking for an advisor for himself. Send your resume along with this write up. You will be hired instantly.
    What BSF is doing in Bangladesh border is totally unacceptable. Anger is the only legitimate and sane response to this sort of behavior. Those who don’t get angry at the scene of Felani’s hanging body or undressing of the poor cattle herder are self serving cowards IMHO. (Mind it, I am NOT addressing this blog, I am addressing the foreign policy leadership of Bangladesh). And when you are justifiably angry at some injustice, the is no logical reason for ‘Dhanai Panai”, beating around the bush or else . It’s like “ he did not want to beat me, but it’s his hands, which for some reason came up suddenly on my cheeks”. Killing innocent civilians like a game deserves angry response. It is a matter of self respect, dignity and national integrity. Like the way we do not justify Pak Army atrocities or Chhatra Sangha cadres crimes on our intellectuals back in 1971 – it is not our job to resort to deep-rooted psychological analysis of BSF or India bureaucracy.

    Anyway, leaving behind the rhetoric, I feel you have significant flaws in your reasoning. In #1, you show a graph stating that the killing has gone down since the current AL (India friendly, we all agree) government came into power. This point apparently justifies a position of India appeasement and shows that good term with India results in less death. But later you point out that the BSF killing has probably nothing to do with India’s foreign policy or a centralized decision making. It is all some ‘out of control’, unruly corrupt BSF members gone berserk and acting solo. If this is the case, how do we explain the drop in number of death since Gawhar Rizvi and Moshiur Rahman started advising Bangladesh government? If we look at this from a reverse angle, if a ‘not so submissive’ government comes to power in 2014, will we see an increase in border killings again? Even if the government of Bangladesh becomes full of Mahmudur Rahman ( I don’t know why we keep bringing Mahmudur Rahman again and again. Abul Hassan Chowdhury is the foreign Minister of previous Hasina government, son of Late Abu Sayeed Chowdhury – President of Bangladesh during Mujib era. He also tells qualitatively the same things Mahmudur Rahman, Ershad, Menon etc are saying); does a hawkish foreign policy of Bangladesh justifies Indian killing of innocent Bangladeshis in border?

    Is it only west Bengal border? We have seen a lot of beating to death in Sylhet border too. Sylhet, I guess, borders Assam, Meghalaya; not Poschim Bongo.

    Morshed Khan did not give fiery sermon in TV does not mean BNP government did not do anything about fare share in water, stopping Tipaimukh or stop border killing. In addition to a balanced dignified relationship with India, Bangladesh government then adopted a policy of mutual deterrence. Like the way Indira government used CHT indigenous peoples’ rebellion to put pressure on Bangladesh’s Zia government, or India uses Dalai Lama/ Tibet in dealing with China or is an ally of Afghanistan in it’s ethnic-regional conflict with Pakistan – Bangladesh used to have the ULFA card in earning some respect from India.
    Now we have nothing except for hope viz a viz good will reciprocity from India. We give India comfort, convenience, security. In exchange we don’t even get our basic rights fulfilled— our rights not to get killed like birds, or our rights to our river water.

    • S Q Iraad said, on March 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

      “ULFA card’? Did that really earn us respect? Or it made us untrusted by the world. Especially when we issued the denial when all along it was an open secret. And are you proud that we supported this terrorism group that killed many thousand of people (including Muslim Bangalis in Assam). When we do that, how we can claim we are outrage when India kills our people as well? We saw how the foreign ambassadors dealt with the government that had this policy in face of our denials. And how they dealt with the prime minister and her family, price of which we are still paying today. Was that the respect that we earned as a result of such policies?

      Not that we should bow our heads to others. But, I think as Bangladeshis, we lost a lot of respect because of those crazy policies, taking money from ISI as revealed last week is yet another example. In fact, I think we did those things (ULFA etc) to appease another set of foreign masters (if Awami has India, BNP has Pakistan, you cannot deny it). And it damaged us also just as the appeasing of India does.

      So, are you really saying, in party political manner, BNP is better than AL is the point of what you post here? I wish people like you would think for the country and its people, not just trashing everything of the party you don’t like and with the idea that the minute your favourite party comes everything will be better automatically. It will not. I support Jyoti’s analysis for solution of problem, not more aggression from our part, but constructive solution finding.

  3. tacit said, on March 8, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Also, Mahmudur Rahman was not giving fiery sermons in 2006 because he did not start his media career until the following year. In 2006, he was just another technocrat working at a high-level position in the government.

    • Rumi said, on March 8, 2012 at 12:49 am

      Mahmudur Rahman was a strong proponent of the deal with Tata. The deal did not go through, to great dismay of Mahmudur Rahman, due to gas price guarantee clause demand by Tata. In retrospect gas price guarantee clause would have been a disaster.

  4. jrahman said, on March 8, 2012 at 2:01 am

    Nice speech Rumi bhai, perhaps you should join BNP — I know for a fact they are looking for qualified people. But your speech is quite beside the point. If you think I’ve done dhanai panai on this issue, then I’ll let my record speak for itself — I’ve written more on this issue than many other bloggers I can name but won’t shame.

    All the other points are about some straw man, not my post. I didn’t say anything about AL’s foreign policy success. I said the public perception would make one think killings have increased under AL, when that’s not the case. Do you have contrary data? If so, please provide and I’ll revise the chart and my view. If not, then why argue about something I didn’t say?

    I didn’t say anything about Tata or ULFA or BNP’s broader foreign policy. The fact is, BSF was killing 3/4 times as many people in 2006 than in 2011. What was the reaction back then? If it’s unacceptable now then surely it was also unacceptable then. If I can castigate progressive-seculars for caring about some issues when only BNP is in power, then why shouldn’t I make the same observation about some nationalists? Or do you think only Rumi Ahmed has the right to take the lonely corner?

    In any case, I didn’t say ‘let’s praise AL for its submissive policy’. I pointed out the trend in one point, and then wrote six other points. If you see more than what I wrote then what can I say?

    It’s a good question why the killings have fallen. I don’t think its AL’s foreign policy, or India ‘teaching Bangladesh a lesson for ULFA’ or anything like that. I think it’s because in recent years, the issue has gained a lot of publicity, both in the west and in India. As a result, BSF feels compelled to discipline the most corrupt elements. But I guess you will consider this kind of thinking ‘psychoanalysis of BSF or Indian bureaucracy’.

    Mahmudur Rahman comes up because he is an extremely courageous and successful professional. Our right wing politics (indeed all sides of politics) can do with more people like him. When people like him make mistakes, we all suffer.

    Tacit, he was a regular on TV in late 2006. Suranjit Sengupta and MK Alamgir were his usual opponents. And he debated with them extremely well. Perhaps the issue simply didn’t come up, so it’s not his fault. But that only supports my point that this issue comes up when AL is in power, just like minority persecutions only come up when BNP is in power.

    • tacit said, on March 8, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I stand corrected.

  5. Rumi said, on March 8, 2012 at 2:56 am

    It was not a speech, it was a jhhari. 🙂 . When one has legitimate reason to be angry, in a mutually respecful scenerio ( Unlike in a captivity scenerio) jhhari is the most natural, legitimate acceptable defence tool. If one is about to rape the other, the first reponse of the victim will be to push the attacker out.

    One reason the anger at the previous Government was not at this level is because the previous government did not seem to the public to be endorsing India’s activities. People perceived that Government was doing what they could do in their capacity. But peples’ perception about current government’s response to the border atrocities is totally different. People feel that the government is not sharing their anger/ concern/ humiliation.

    • Rumi said, on March 8, 2012 at 2:59 am

      People anger on the previous government was not for their India policy, rather it was for previous government’s unprecedented failure in day to day management of the administration and peoples’ perception of extreme corruption by the Uday Kusey duo.

      • jrahman said, on March 8, 2012 at 4:57 am

        Now we are getting somewhere. I have no idea what the people really think, but your analysis is probably correct — people see the current government has given everything India wanted, and yet people keep getting killed at the border (and also the water issue etc), so they feel angry at the government. Fine.

        But Rumi bhai, as a privileged elite with access to information and the power to shape opinion, we — not just you and me, but all the bloggers, columnists, talk show superstars, bishishto chintabids et al — have a responsibility to go beyond the anger and emotion. Our job as analysts is to understand why things are the way they are, and as activists we should try to figure out how to improve things.

        Yet another angry tirade about the border killings (or corruption or hated razakars or whatever is the issue of the day) is not what I believe we should do.

        On this issue, here is a tentative theory. When BNP was in power, there were many issues to be angry about, and this got crowded out. Since there was no outcry, BSF didn’t feel the need to reign in its corrupt elements. Under AL, the issue gains prominence (for whatever reason), and reacting to public outcry in the west and crucially, in India, BSF has actually curbed excesses. One corollary is that concerted noise in the right places can make a difference. Of course there are still too many atrocities, and there needs to be pressure on the Bangladesh government too.

        But as analysts, we need to understand the domestic political dynamics too. AL doesn’t deserve credit for the improvement in the border. But fuelling the perception that things are getting worse under AL isn’t going to change things. One can make analogies with BNP and ‘progressive issues’ which come up only when BNP is in power — but I think I’ve made my point.

      • Rumi said, on March 8, 2012 at 7:21 pm

        But I do not see you are going anywhere in this thread. 🙂 . Indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians by a foreign armed force is an act of aggression. It is in infringement of sovereignty. In a mutually respectful situation, when one attacks the other, the first reaction is self protection, protest and deterrence. (But if you are in a captive situation when your hands and legs are tied by your captor, you don’t have much option but to digest all the beatings. I hope you are not telling that India Bangladesh relationship is like that of a captor and captive). Angry protest, self defense and deterrence tactics are not mutually exclusive with “going beyond the anger and emotion” and ‘analyze why things are the way they are, and … out how to improve things”. But each has its own appropriate time. When your house is in fire, you put the fire down first, not start thinking how that happened before putting the fire down.

        It is not correct this people don’t have much to get angry at this government except for India issue. There are many burning issues like prices, law and order, politicization of everything, load shedding, mastaani etc. But as Talukder Moniruzzaman correctly addressed Bangladeshi psych few years ago – anti India sentiment will remain a major determinant of our political winds for years to come. India bashing will not win vote but the majority of people will NOT like to see the government become pro India ( i.e. pro-India stand will cost popularity and vote and India bashing will not win vote). People, on their personal life, will do all the business with India, tour India, get treatment in India and use Indian merchandize. Business will love trades with India. But collective they would demand their government maintain a head strong stand with India. I feel this is Talukder Moniruzzaman’s theory of anti-India psych.
        An elected government will act according to its peoples’ demands. That is why in our analysts’ analysis, bloggers’ blogs, columnists’ columns, researchers’ articles the government should get a clear message. On the face of continued careless aggression, our government must lodge strong protest, stand steadfast to save its citizens. In failing to do so – the government harms its own political future as well as the nation’s sovereignty by giving an impression of a spineless state and creating an environment suitable for rise of fundamentalists.

      • jrahman said, on March 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm

        Your second para should be expanded into at least a proper blog post, if not an op ed. It’s more astute analysis than most things one read in Daily Star. But I guess we will have to wait for that analysis until there is an appropriate time. 🙂

  6. Rumi said, on March 10, 2012 at 2:15 am

    You have to cur me slacks here Jyoti. People are extremely angry at Bangladeshi ministers and AL leaders justifying and in cases supporting Indian actions in Tipaimukh, border, Farakka etc. We already have listened all these struffs from from Ramesh Sheels, Dipu Monis, Gawher Rizvis. Progressive media, blogosphere remained uncharacteristically silent. In this backdrop if your write up start sounding like a piece from Mohammad Arafat, it invokes anger!

    • jrahman said, on March 10, 2012 at 3:41 am

      Progressive blogs are silent? There is a dozen post on this in Sachal — not progressive enough for you?

      I’ve written on this for years now, making a consistent point that as citizen-activists, we have to build alliance with Indian civil society to put pressure on the Indian government. That’s not the only way, but that has been the way I have advocated all along. And this post is a continuation of that theme.

      Read the post again, and imagine this scenario. You are talking to an Indian person who says ‘oh BSF has to kill Bangladeshis to prevent illegal immigration’. Wrong! Even in 2006, when BSF was killing 3 people every week, it said ‘infiltration’ isn’t a problem. Then you meet another person, who says, wringing his hand, ‘oh BSF can’t be controlled, too hard you see’. Wrong again! Bad publicity, so they have reduced killing, but are now torturing. So you can urge your Indian friends to raise the noise in India.

      Reading the post as an Arafat-like endorsement of AL, I’m afraid, says more about the reader than the writer here. 🙂

      • Rumi said, on March 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm

        It is not exactly like that. Rather than blaming the reader, please try to understand why a reader would read your write up in an way you did not intend the piece to be read.
        Government’s policy and actions regarding India is not in the best interest of Bangladesh. And this policy is not endorsed by even a small minority of the population.

        Any write up on India border issue, where a condemnation of a faulty government policy is absent is bound to stir up protests. Can you imagine writing piece on faults/ lapses of current War Crime strial without repeatedly swearing how much you hate the rajakars, how important is it to try to atrocities of 1971?

        Similarly if you would have written a piece today analyzing the needs and justifying the unprecedented blockade of the country imposed by the governments to prevent mass gathering in BNP meeting – how it would sound like? May be there is very minor security issues here and there. But an analysis on governemnt actions must not be limited to the need to solve the security issues ( and thus ignoring the bigger picture, i.e. government fascist, intolerant activities and ruthless abuse of administration, police and judiciary to silence a dissenting voice).

        Similaly I believe that any discourse rregarding Indo-Bangla relationship must contain one clear meassage –loud and clear—that is, what is happening in border, what is happening in Tipaimukh-Teesta-Farakka etc ; is very wrong and must stop. You then can add other modifiers in the equaltion like your Poschim Bongo theory, downsloaping of death curve etc.

      • jrahman said, on March 12, 2012 at 3:59 am

        I am not blaming the reader. I am, in fact, somewhat bemused by the reaction. I accept the possibility that some readers might read a given piece in a way the writer doesn’t intend. For example, you mention the razakars. Well, I have written quite a few pieces about Jamaat where I don’t mention 1971 or genocide or Al Badr — and yes, some readers do get worked up about my views towards these issues. Here is an example from my early days in blogging which is accused of being pro-Jamaat.

        While I accept that some readers might misunderstand any given piece, I don’t think it’s necessary to mention some things that are self-evidently true. On a discussion of World War II or European history in the New York Times or the Guardian, do you see the message ‘we condemn the Nazis’ loud and clear? Some crimes are so clearly wrong, in some cases things are so black-and-white, that the discourse doesn’t need repeated mantra of ‘we condemn it’. In fact, such repeated ritualistic condemnation actually cheapens the discourse. I would argue that this is exactly what has happened to the discourse on 1971 or political Islam in Bangladesh.

  7. Rumi said, on March 13, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Definitely no one can force you or tell you what you would write or what you would not. This whole thing is a matter peoples’ perspective. It tells from what angle you see. You definitely want your die hard anti India reader to continue reading the whole write up. You don’t want them to leave half way dismissing it as another Arafatesque piece. Because it is those people who need to read this most.
    Just look at the events of yesterday. Unprecedented injustice was done to the country by the ruling party. Citizens were barred from moving/ travelling within their own country. Residential hotels, restaurants and even street side food stalls were shut down by police for days. Even the remotest of the villages were cut off from Dhaka. All were done to prevent the opposition party hold its rally, a perfectly legal and traditional event in Bangladesh. TV channels were taken off air as they tried to broadcast the opposition leader’s speech. A TV channel, Ekushey TV, was sent notice of closure due to non renewal of licensure as it did not reverse its decision to broadcast the speech live. But none of the above injustices do stir some of our friends as much as a slip of tongue speech by a 3rd tier leader of an allied party does. At least this impression I get from his facebook page. Similarly another one sees gender imbalance in the opposition leadership, but the suffering of people caused by government induced blockade of the country skips his attention.
    That’s why, what you write and what you don’t write definitely influence the readers impression of you.

    Yes, “On a discussion of World War II or European history in the New York Times or the Guardian” of these days, we don’t see repeat load and clear condemnation of Nazi atrocities. But this is nearly a century after the event took place. Justice/ revenge/ closure – all were accomplished at least six decades ago. If you read discourses on Nazi atrocities of that time, you would have seen the ritualistic loud and clear message.

    • jrahman said, on March 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

      To be sure, I also shared that video with a few friends — it was funny. But it seems to me that your facebook friends are full of Awami hacks. My observation is that the government-enforced hartal has been roundly criticised by everyone except for the most partisan Awamis.

      I accept your broader point, and will be more careful in the future.

  8. Diganta said, on March 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I’ll comment after I come back to US. For the time being, thanks for writing in details and being focussed.

  9. Diganta said, on March 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    “I contend that if a few jawans are tried and convicted for murder or rape or other such crimes that carry capital punishment in India, and if such capital punishment is actually enforced, we would see a significant further drop in the atrocities.”
    – I thought I should comment on this one. Capital punishment is rare in India and if i remember correctly there are less than one per year instances of that. In a country of a billion, that’s truly “rarest of rare”. One jawan who killed three Bangladeshis crossing the border, got life imprisonment in 2008. But, there are big ifs and buts on this. As per Indian laws, accused is innocent unless proven. In most of these cases a gang of “bad” BSF soldiers kill one or multiple cattle-traders. Now, who’s going to testify against those BSF jawans given that local villagers will hardly be able to identify the BSF jawans responsible for it?

    Think of the case of Felani. Some BSF jawan killed her at night. Now, how is it possible to know who was it? Even if you say who was on duty was responsible but such arguments are easily junked at court.

    • উদয়ন said, on March 15, 2012 at 3:10 am

      Well, of course, capital punishment if rarely applied should be a policy instilled in the BSF given they are a weapon carrying law enforcement agency as well, no matter what the apparent / perceived / officially reported crimes of those they apprehend

      • jrahman said, on March 16, 2012 at 10:27 am

        I didn’t say convicting and carrying out capital punishment would be easy. But I don’t think they are impossible either. And precisely because capital punishment, particularly of uniformed men, is so rare, if it were to happen, the deterrence effect would be major.

  10. উদয়ন said, on March 22, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Not sure how a 103-year old woman has a 45 year old son, but this is a ridiculous situation and another example of bureaucracy creating unnecessary humanitarian nightmares


    Cooch Behar, March 21: A 103-year-old Bangladeshi woman who completed a jail sentence for infiltrating into India has refused to be repatriated without her son who is serving a prison term for the same offence.

    Rangobala Sarkar told the prison authorities that there was no one to take care of her outside the jail except her son and she would not be able to survive on her own at this age.

    Sources said the widow had told the authorities of Cooch Behar jail that she would not leave the prison till her son Satyaranjan Sarkar, 45, completed his term on May 30. Rangobala’s sentence ended on March 15.

    Under the Foreigners Act, one can face a jail term of two to eight years for entering a country without valid papers.

  11. A new nationalist synthesis « Mukti said, on March 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    […] year to the 2007 match BSF had killed about five times Bangladeshis as they did in the past year, the atrocity didn’t matter to the Bangladeshi celebration.  There was no posters like this in the virtual […]

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