By Shyam Khosla
The Union Home Minister'sresponse to the gruesome incident in which an officer of the Border Security Force (BSF) was tortured and brutally killed and two constables accompanying him were seriously injured by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), after they were dragged across the Tripura-Bangladesh border, is a matter of national shame. The government'sinitial warning that the repercussions of the incident couldn'tbe ignored was vastly diluted by the Home Minister'sstatement that New Delhi has asked Dhaka to maintain bilateral relations, so that India is not ?humiliated?.
The emphasis on not ?being humiliated? and not on our national honour and prestige is distressing. It is not the first time that Bangladesh has behaved like a rogue State. Exactly four years ago, on April 16, 2001 to be precise, 16 BSF jawans were similarly tortured and killed and their bodies slung on bamboo poles were paraded by a ?friendly? government headed by Begum Hasina. The incident shocked the nation but the government of the day compromised the national honour by painting the incident as a ?unilateral action? by Bangladesh Rifles. Dhaka was provided with an escape route hoping that the ?friendly? government would return to power. It didn?t.
After expressing a reluctant regret, the Bangladesh government has ordered an enquiry into last month'sincident. This one-sided enquiry will serve only one purpose?to bail out the guilty personnel by coming out with the foregone conclusion that the BSF Assistant Commandant and the two constables were at fault. Bangladesh Rifles are already maintaining that the BSF personnel had trespassed into Bangladesh and thus were apprehended and killed when they tried to resist. New Delhi didn'tinsist on a joint enquiry by the two governments to get to the truth. This is not the way a powerful nation responds to attacks on its security forces. Are lives of our security personnel so cheap? If we can'ttell a small and weak country to behave and punish it for its misadventures, how come we claim to be a regional power?
Is something intrinsically wrong with the BSF? Every other Bangladeshi domestic help in Delhi will tell you that she visits her village in Bangladesh every year. Crossing the border is routine?you have only to pay to the BSF and BDR to migrate without documents and return home for vacations year after year. The BSF deployed on the Indo-Pak border in Punjab was equally notorious for looking the other way as men and material were smuggled across the international border, during the period Punjab bled from terrorism. Moreover, it is painful and humiliating that time and again BDR beats up BSF personnel. Why can'tthey retaliate? The government too can'tbe absolved of its responsibility. The so-called Gujral doctrine of one-sided love must give way to a more practical policy in tune with national dignity. If New Delhi asks inconvenient questions every time a Bangladeshi trying to infiltrate or smuggle drugs gets killed, the security forces are bound to be on the defensive. No mercy needs be shown to infiltrators and smugglers. New Delhi must support security forces when they take firm action in national interest.
This is not the way a powerful nation responds to attacks on its security forces. Are lives of our security personnel so cheap?
Bangladesh poses several serious problems to our security and well-being. Massive infiltration of Bangladeshis is one of the major problems. A distorted concept of secularism has prevented successive governments from taking effective steps to curb or at least minimise illegal migration. We can'tallow Bangladesh to burden us with an unemployed and half-fed population. This demographic invasion has given rise to serious social, economic and security concerns. Successive governments have failed to identify and deport Bangladeshi infiltrators. The IMDT Act is flawed and must go. The NDA government'sresolve to abrogate this black law was never realised. The UPA government has proved worse in this respect. It has decided to continue with the law that has made it almost impossible to prove that one is an illegal migrant.
Vote-bank politics is playing havoc with our national security. Trafficking in drugs and cross-border movement of countless insurgent groups operating in the northeast through the porous borders are equally disturbing. The government lacks the political will to tackle these problems. Border fencing on the Punjab and J&K borders has played a big role in effectively reducing infiltration of Pak-trained insurgents. New Delhi will do well to accelerate the fencing on the Indo-Bangladesh border and expediting the demarcation of the undefined portion of the border that is about 6.5 kms. Negotiated settlement of the disputed enclaves will enable us to secure our eastern borders more effectively.
Bangladesh is in a negation mode. Its ministers have made official statements saying there was not a single Bangladeshi in India. It refuses to see the glaring fact that Indian states bordering Bangaldesh are flooded with illegal migrants from our eastern neighbour. Besides, there are countless Bangladeshis in our metropolitan cities.
New Delhi has identified around 200 terrorist facilities and training camps in Bangladesh and has provided Dhaka with documentary evidence to that effect. Dhaka, however, denies the existence of even a single terrorist camp in its territory. New Delhi needs to engage Bangladesh in serious negotiations to persuade the latter to accept the ground realities. Failing which, we must act to protect our national interests. Only then will we command the respect of the rogue State on our eastern border.