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Asia

BlogWatch: Shoot on sight orders on Indian border

The demand made by one of India's biggest opposition party leaders to enforce shoot on sight order along the Indo-Bangladeshi borders has infuriated many bloggers.

Tapir Gao, the national general secretary of India's biggest opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for being a mere spectator of cross-border infringement by Bangladeshis in Assam who form Muslim fundamentalist organizations, which disrupt the harmony of the Indian state.

He mentioned this in the wake of recent ethnic clashes in the northeastern state of Assam, which led to an exodus of thousands of Indians across the country.

Gao claims that natives in 11 districts of Assam have now become minorities due to extensive migration from Bangladesh. Therefore, Gao has demanded shoot on sight orders to be put into force on the Indo-Bangladeshi border.

Violation of human rights

According to some reports, the Border Security Force (BSF) until last year carried out shoot outs at the border. During his visit to Dhaka last year, then Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram asked the BSF to refrain from shooting at sight.

Probir Kumar Sarker of The Daily Star, Bangladesh's national English daily, in his blog writes, "Border killing has become a burning issue. Protesters are infuriated, calling such killings an 'extrajudicial' act - a violation of human rights - despite repeated promises by top Indian authorities (to stop it)."

Bangladeshi nationals on a boat

The Indo-Bangladeshi border cuts through rivers, fields and villages

Kingshuk Nag of The Times of India in his blog Masala Noodles writes, "The effort of stemming the flow of illegal migrants can be easily met by giving shoot on sight orders to the BSF. It will immediately stop migration, not a single Bangladeshi will venture to cross the borders."

But he adds, "The question of morality will get in the way. Pursuing this policy might have international repercussions and international human rights agencies might see red. Within India also it will raise hackles in some quarters."

Game of power

Nag further describes how corrupt BSF officials allow the movement of people over the border for a price. These illegal immigrants, according to Nag, receive false food ration cards and voter IDs with the help of local politicians who hope to thus receive a high number of votes.

Sarker is of the opinion that neither government takes any effective steps to stop the smuggling of drugs, cattle, arms, and human trafficking over the border. Thus, "illegal but open trading" continues to take place every day and is not often intercepted by cross-border security.

Indian Border Security Force soldiers

It has often been said that corrupt BSF officials allow illegal immigration

Plan of action

Both India and Bangladesh are issuing policies to deal with illegal cross-border traffic; Sarker mentions in his blog the three-point initiative of the BSF and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), which includes the "deployment of additional security to the border, making people (wary of) crossing the border without documents, and the sharing of information on the movement of criminals." An example is the agreement last year between the two sides that the BSF would use rubber bullets instead of lethal weapons.

M Shahidul Islam, a researcher at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), in his weblog shares his view, stating "implementing a mega project by fencing its border reflects India's two-pronged approach, where on one hand it asks for transit facilities for better connectivity in the region and on the other hand fences the border."

"It was expected that after improved bilateral ties, Indian security forces would demonstrate some restraint on the border," he adds.

But it seems efforts to strengthen border security have been futile. Nag points out that the fence project has yet to be completed even a quarter century after it was started in the mid 1980s and that now there is another project to set up floodlights along borders.

Whatever the outcome, Haroon Habib, a journalist and author based in Dhaka writes in the opinion-page of India's national English daily, The Hindu, "India and Bangladesh have deeply rooted bonds of shared history and culture of hundreds of years."

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