Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on Friday claimed that no illegal immigration is taking place into India from the neighbouring country, but expressed concern over rising incidents of smuggling across the border. Addressing a joint press conference with Border Security Force (BSF) Director-General Rakesh Asthana, BGB Director-General Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam said that at least 86 Bangladeshi nationals were killed on the Indian side in the last three years for their alleged criminal activities.
Asthana, however, said BSF has apprehended 3,204 persons this year for illegally entering India from Bangladesh and 60 of them, whose nationalities were established, were handed over to BGB. Discussing various issues concerning the border during the ongoing five-day 51st DG-level talks between the BSF and BGB that started on December 22, the two forces signed a Joint Accord of Discussion and decided to increase coordinated night patrolling to prevent illegal activities.
"No illegal immigration is going on from Bangladesh to India. The GDP of Bangladesh is on a steady upward trend. There is no reason for any citizen to come to India for jobs or any other reason. People have come with valid documents only for medical purposes," Islam said.
Many families in border areas have their relatives on the other side and they keep visiting them during festivals or other occasions, but with only valid travel documents, he added. The BGB DG also denied the reports that some people have crossed over to his nation from Assam as they did not find their names in the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The "continuous illegal immigration" is a political hotcake for political parties in Assam, Northeast and also in West Bengal, and promises to deport such immigrants are made in every election. The top officers of the two forces, however, expressed concerns over the illegal movement of Rohingyas and said BSF and BGB are taking measures to control it by regularly apprehending such people on both sides of the border.
Both of them also accepted that criminal activities, mostly smuggling of various items, are on the rise. "We are concerned about cross-border illegal trade.
These syndicates are mainly dealing with narcotics and cattle smuggling. We are constantly monitoring them and have increased our vigil along the border," Asthana said. On rising incidents of cattle smuggling, Islam said it is affecting the local cattle farms in Bangladesh as the country is self-sufficient in cattle production.
"In fact, we are producing more cattle than we need. Moreover, 400-600 cattle legally come every day from Myanmar.
Because of smuggling, many criminals are getting killed in operations by security forces," he added. The BGB chief told the press that three persons were killed in 2018 on the Indian side for their criminal activities, while the figure stood at 35 and 48 persons in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
"The border killing is a concerning issue, not only for the BGB but also for the Bangladeshi people," he added. Asthana said even Indian people are getting killed due to their involvement in criminal activities such as smuggling, and mentioned that at least three Indians were killed this year.
"This is an issue that concerns both parties. We can assure one thing that BSF uses lethal weapons as a last resort only. These killings are taking place at the dead of the night between 10 pm and 5 am. We are trying to solve this in the most appropriate manner," he added. The BSF DG said his force has apprehended 3,204 persons for illegally entering into India through various border states such as Assam, West Bengal and Tripura, and 60 of them were handed over to the BGB after establishing their nationalities.
"Those people whose nationalities can not be identified by the BSF, are handed over to the local police as they have a better mechanism to deal with," he said. Asthana said the two forces have agreed to increase the "coordinated night patrolling" in vulnerable places to prevent smuggling and illegal movement of people in order to reduce the killing of civilians by the security forces.
"We have agreed to initiate confidence-building measures in border areas. We will also promote civic activities like organising medical camps, having border hubs and helping visit of people so that the population living along the border is benefitted," he said. Asthana further said that the BGB has agreed to extend full cooperation to the BSF in its year-long celebration to commemorate the 50 years of independence of Bangladesh.