MONDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2012 00:51 KUMAR CHELLAPPAN | CHENNAI
The 2,429 km long India-Bangladesh border and stretches in Jammu which borders Pakistan are as open and as unsafe as the goalpost of the Indian football team. The regions are paradise for smugglers specialised in smuggling cows and pharmaceuticals.
The jawans of the Border Security Force guarding the border with Bangladesh are being held in a tight leash by the government and human right activists. Terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jayesh-e-Mohammed and others with headquarters in Pakistan operate through the safe India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal and Assam. These were the observations made by a group of professionals and students from Tamil Nadu who toured the region last fortnight.
“A vast stretch of the India-Bangladesh border remains unguarded. The BSF jawans do not have basic facilities and instruments for surveillance. They are under strict orders from the government not to open fire at the illegal immigrants who cross the borders for nefarious activities,” Geddi Govindan Chandrasekaran (35), a software engineer from Chennai told The Pioneer.
Chandra and nearly 200 youth from Tamil Nadu toured the west, north and eastern borders of the country for an on the spot assessment. The tour was facilitated by Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) an organisation promoted by retired defence personnel and civil servants to create an awareness about the grim situation in the country’s borders.
Even the untrained eyes and minds of Chandra and his friends could pick up the disturbing trends in the 150 km long border in the North 24 Pargana district in West Bengal. “We visited Basirhat, a small town and five villages along the border. The villages have the same name, Sahebkhali and are known by their numbers. Bangladeshi smugglers and anti-social elements trespass into the villages and steal the cattle, mainly cows. Since there is a distance of more than 100 meters between each house, the villagers can never seek the help of their neighbours when the Bangladeshi thieves make their night rounds. On an average, they steal more than 100 cows from the border villages every night,” said Chandra.
The cows find their way to slaughter houses in Bangladesh where they are killed and the halal meat is exported to the west Asian countries. Most of the modern slaughter houses in Bangladesh survive on cows stolen and smuggled from India. “Officers of the BSF told us that they have been instructed not to open fire at the smugglers or illegal immigrants. The human right activists and civil liberty movements are not worried over illegal immigration or smuggling. There are village heads offering to help the illegal migrants to get Indian citizenship. Villagers in Bithipada village told us that Rupashi Mondal, a village head, arranges citizenship, ration card and plots of land for illegal immigrants,” said Chandra.
There is severe shortage of coins in these villages. “Bangladeshi smugglers collect all Indian coins and send it across the border where it is melted to make blades. It is a profitable venture because of the quality of the metal,” he said. The Bangladeshi smugglers and infiltrators use all the dirty games to hoodwink the BSF jawans, they said. “One of the BSF commanders told us that the infiltrators have deployed call girls to lure the jawans. Since the jawans are not given leave for visiting their families, they fall easy prey to the glamour of the females pushed from across the border,” said Chandra. He pointed out that the BSF jawans work without break or holidays for two years.
Kashi Venkataranan Sivaraman (27), an electrical engineer, led a 200 member team to Jammu and foun that the situation was no different in the north western border. “The border regions could be reached only by walking. We had to walk 15 km per day to reach villages like Bobia, Kirolkrishna and Chakra. There is no public transport to these villages. The villages remain without power and primary health centres,” said Siva.
He said Pakistani Rangers routinely fire at the Indian villagers without any provocation and many deaths have been reported The entire villages close to the border do not have power or primary health centres. “What is disturbing is that our BSF jawans are sitting ducks to Pakistani firing. They do not have proper cover up while moving from one bunker to another,” said Siva. Since the border in the western front is under observation, the terrorists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan are using the eastern border to infiltrate into India, he said.
The India -Bangladesh border along Meghalaya is similar to the one in 24 North Parganas, said Dillaraja (33), an administrative officer from a private engineering college in Chennai. “The jawans are caught between devil and deep sea syndrome. If they fire at illegal immigrants, smugglers or terrorists, they are put into hardships like departmental enquiries and disciplinary proceedings. All they are allowed to do is to politely elicit information from the infiltrators,” said Dilliraja.
Siva, Chandra and Dilliraja are preparing a note on what they have seen and experienced to the handed over to the FINS for furher action. “The report will reflect what the ordinary eyes saw in the country’s borders and the situation is grim,” they said.