Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bangladesh Border : Killings Continue ...

When I visited Hilli, a border town of India alongside Bangladesh back in 1992, I noticed a few points of border economy of India. People, in 'collaboration' with BSF and BDR, has established a virtual 'free trade' with the other side of the border. The main 'export' item was cattle, sugar and rice, whereas the 'import' item was petrol and diesel. The trade used to fund the local clubs and small organizations, as well as bigwigs like Adhir Chaudhury(MP, Murshidabad, WB). The business was well-structured to avoid the tarriffs between two countries. The border was as porous as it would have been in any other populous borders.

The things started to change since 2000, mainly due to political interests. Firstly, the right-wing BJP govt tried to establish a threat caused by infiltration from Bangladesh. The terrorists working out of their 'den' in the other country was a common notion in both India and Bangladesh. The relationship worsened with the border-fencing started in Bengal, and the protests along the border. The border fences left 150 yards of land to the other side of the border, in accordance to Bangladesh-India defence agreement in 1975 and various other international treaties. Secondly, the rise of Congress in the border areas to counter the CPM hegemony in West Bengal. This concern has triggered CPM to join the anti-infiltration rheotics.

The change in political climate did affect the behavior of BSF as well. They are now ordered to go 'offensive' to stop infiltration. The BSF responded with regular killings in the border. Yes, the count is 377 in 2000-2005. This 'political will' to 'stop Bangladesis at their border' did not stop, hence, the killing continues. But, the smuggling business continues its' growth, completely in accordance with common-sense economic theory.

Though the damage is significant in both sides, why none of the interested parties are inviting the other in a bilateral dialogue? The answer is in multi-party 'immature' democracies of both nations. Some of the political parties of Bangladesh will always try to portray India as evil to gain popularity in Bangladesh. Similarly in India, the prime accused was Pakistan. But, along with the peace-process with Pakistan, the Pak-card is losing its' glamour. Hence, the easy alternative, is Bangladesh. The recent rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh fuelled that anti-Bangladesh stance among Indian political parties. It's a known tactics around the world that parties amend their failure at home by pointing out towards neighbours. Indian failure to curb North-East insurgencies is guiding Indian politicians to raise fingers at Bangladesh. Similarly, their Bangladesh counterparts are pointing towards India for their trade imbalance and development roadblocks. All these people want the problem to stay for years so that they don't run into shortage of 'foreign' issues in local politics. The million-dollar question is : How long will we be playing puppet to our politicians? Looking at the current world, well, only God knows.

Some other interesting updates on this issue from Anandabazar Patrika. The report is on vilage Karimgunge, Assam, where the village young men are guarding routinelytheir properties from Dacoits of the other side of the border. They themselves have arranged a 'chowki' for BSF to protect their village. They are also collaborating with border fencing program.

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