Cops say three killed during BSF op in Bengal, differs with paramilitary force on fatality count

By PTI

KOLKATA: Three persons, including two Bangladeshi nationals, were killed along the Indo-Bangla border in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal on Friday during an operation by the BSF to thwart an alleged cattle smuggling bid, the police said.

The BSF, however, asserted that two Bangladeshis were shot dead at Sitai in Coochbehar district in the early hours of Friday after they attacked a patrol party that stopped them from smuggling cattle, and there was “no clarity on the death of a third person”.

The force also said that one of its personnel suffered injuries during the operation and had to be taken to a nearby hospital.

The incident has triggered a political slugfest, with the ruling TMC accusing the BSF of letting loose a reign of terror following the enhancement of its jurisdiction from 15 to 50 km by the Centre.

The ruling party said that it would move a resolution in the Assembly next week against this decision of the central government.

“Three persons were killed during the incident. Two are suspected Bangladeshi nationals, and the third one is an Indian, a resident of the area. As per the preliminary investigation, all three died in the course of the same incident,” Sumit Kumar, the Cooch Behar superintendent of police, told PTI.

He also said that the Indian national killed during the operation has been identified as Prakash Barman, and his body was found 700 meters away from the border.

BSF Additional Director General Y B Khurania, however, claimed that only two Bangladeshis were killed during the incident.

“As per our reports and preliminary investigation, only two persons, who are Bangladeshis, were killed. We have heard that one more body has been found, but it has no bullet injury. The body was found around 1 km away from the border. There is no clarity on the circumstances under which he died,” Khurania stated.

According to the BSF, around 2 am, miscreants from both India and Bangladesh were trying to smuggle cattle by establishing improvised bamboo cantilevers on barbed wires.

“Some 60 miscreants assembled on both sides of the border around 2 am. They tried to smuggle cattle by throwing improvised bamboo cantilevers on barbed wires. When a BSF patrol party tried to stop them, it was attacked with stones, iron rods and sticks,” Khurania explained.

The Border Security Force (BSF) troops had also asked the miscreants to leave, but they did not pay heed, he said.

The border guarding personnel then used non-lethal ammunition to stop their activities, but that too did not deter them, the ADG recounted.

“Two BSF constables got surrounded and were badly hurt (by the miscreants). It was then that they opened fire in self-defence. They fired a few rounds in the air. Later it was found that two persons on that side of the border died in the firing,” Khurania said.

Hitting out at the BSF, local TMC MLA Udayan Guha claimed that the force continues to “torture” people.

“The Centre should control the BSF, otherwise terrible things are waiting to happen. The BSF is not supposed to kill anyone under any circumstance. This killing of an Indian proves the kind of atrocity they perpetrate in the bordering areas. This is why we opposed the enhancement of BSF’s jurisdiction,” the senior TMC leader contended.

Echoing him, state parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee described the jurisdiction extension as a “direct attack on the country’s federal structure”.

“Under Rule 185 of the Rules of Procedures of Conduct of Business of the House, we will bring in a resolution next week in the Assembly to discuss how enhancing the area of jurisdiction of the BSF is a direct attack on India’s federal structure,” Chatterjee said.

The opposition BJP wondered what else the BSF personnel could have done upon being attacked by “lethal weapons”.

“The BSF did the right thing by trying to foil attempts of cattle smuggling. The TMC has a habit of politicising every issue and maligning our security forces,” BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.

The ruling camp in Bengal, which has been opposing the Centre’s decision to enhance the BSF’s area of jurisdiction, has decided to bring in a resolution next week to oppose the decision.

The BJP said it would oppose the move.

West Bengal would be the second state after Punjab to bring in such a resolution.

The Punjab Assembly had on Thursday adopted a resolution against the Centre’s decision, calling it an “insult” to the state police and seeking its withdrawal.

In October, the Union home ministry expanded the area of jurisdiction under BSF from 15 km to 50 km from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam to curb crimes such as smuggling of drugs and ammunition, busting cattle smuggling rings and fake currency rackets.

Friday’s incident took place hours before Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla held a meeting with senior state government officials in Kolkata over various border-related issues.