The Bangladesh home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, has made a reassuring statement in Kolkata in the immediate aftermath of the killing of a BSF jawan by troops of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) alongside the Padma river that skirts Bengal’s Murshidabad district. First, the Indian fisherman, who was arrested last Thursday for allegedly trespassing into Bangladesh, will be released according to international norms. Second, he is agreeable to a meeting with Home minister Amit Shah to defuse the situation.
No less critical is his proposal to use what he calls “non-lethal weapons” and arrange for joint border patrol. Both measures are expected to minimise civilian deaths along the international boundary. Till last Thursday, relations between the BSF and BGB had been as cordial as ties between India and Bangladesh. This has been in contrast to the simmering tension on the border to the west of the Radcliffe Line. However, the porous border is now surcharged as never before. The killing of a BSF jawan is as serious as it is exceptional. It has happened despite the steady influx of people from across the border since the late Seventies ~ the “quiet influx” as this newspaper had described it while breaking the story in 1979.
It is a cruel irony that the shooting occurred alongside the river in the aftermath of a flag meeting between the commanders of the border security entities of the two countries. Reports suggest that three Indian fishermen were fishing in the river; it is quite possible that they might have strayed into Bangladesh territory, given the strong currents at this time of the year. No, it wasn’t a tresspass; there is no such allusion even in the Bangladesh Home minister’s statement. The fact that the firing was unprovoked has not been denied by the government in Dhaka, still less by the BGB.
It redounds to the credit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister that she has pledged to commission a thorough investigation. The BGB opened fire the moment the Indian boat was turning towards this side of the river. This is the primary issue that calls for reflection in any enquiry. It is ironical too that the riverine tragedy that has befallen the Padma Nadir Majhi ~ to summon the title of Manik Bandopadhyay’s novel ~ has happened soon after Begum Hasina’s recent visit to India. It is now fairly confirmed that the AK-47 trigger was pulled with calculated malevolence by a trigger-happy jawan of Border Guard Bangladesh.
The plot thickens with the BSF filing a murder complaint against the BGB. There is little doubt that the BSF has been a target of excessive fury, “an unexpected incident” in the words of Asaduzzaman Khan. Border Guard Bangladesh has a lot to answer for. It is fervently to be hoped that the next meeting of the Directors-General of the two forces shall not be held under a cloud. Let peace prevail as it traditionally has on the eastern flank. The occasional tension also needs to be defused on the Taki frontier in North 24-Parganas, which skirts the Ichamati river.