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Concern increased in border areas due to rights given to BSF

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Under the latest decision of the Central Government, the rights given to the Border Security Force (BSF) have increased the concern of the people living in the border areas. They allege that BSF personnel already used to commit atrocities in the border villages. Angered by the Centre’s decision, the state governments have also accused the Center of damaging the federal structure. In Punjab, Assam and West Bengal, earlier the BSF had the right to act within a radius of 15 km, which has now been increased to 50 km. Interestingly, in the year 2011, when the then UPA government brought a similar bill, the opposition parties led by the BJP protested strongly. This protest forced the UPA to postpone the Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill in March 2012. Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, had even written a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing that decision. Pain of the people of the border areas “BSF jawans keep harassing us at any time day and night in the name of search. Complaints of molestation of women have also come against them frequently. Earlier their activities were within 15 km radius of the border. It was limited. But now the Center has increased it to 50 km. With this hundreds of nearby villages will now come under the jurisdiction of BSF.” This is to say of Shamsul Haque (name changed), who lives in a village bordering Bangladesh in North 24-Parganas district of West Bengal. He also requested not to be named for fear of BSF jawans. “We have been suffering the atrocities of BSF jawans for decades.

There are very few villages within 15 km radius of the first border. But if the radius is 50 km, thousands of villages will come under its purview.” Abdul Sheikh, who lives near the border with Cachar district in Assam, also accuses BSF jawans of atrocities. Often many problems have to be faced. We are always looked at with suspicion and the BSF people keep harassing us by making false allegations.” What is the matter The Central Government has amended the Border Security Force (BSF) Act and empowered it to search, seize and arrest within a radius of 50 km from the International Border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. Earlier this right was limited to a radius of 15 km. On the other hand, in the areas of Gujarat bordering Pakistan, this range has been reduced from 80 km to 50 km. There was already a limit of up to 50 km in Rajasthan, no change has been made in it. The Union Home Ministry had issued a notification in this regard on October 11. On the opposition’s opposition, the central government says that this matter is related to national security and therefore the debate on it is meaningless. Its argument is that enemy countries are using drones and it was necessary for India to strengthen the BSF. Union Home Ministry officials argue that while Punjab has a problem of drug and arms smuggling, Assam and West Bengal have new challenges in the form of cattle and counterfeit currency smuggling. The sole purpose of this notification is to improve the efficiency of BSF and help it in cracking down on gangs involved in smuggling. BSF side A BSF official says, “We will continue to work with the state police as before.

Our jurisdiction has certainly been increased but their (state police’s) jurisdiction is not being curtailed. Apart from this, only the BSF can arrest anyone, the state police has the right to prosecute. The BSF was first given the right to arrest under various sections in the year 1969. But this issue is now taking a political colour. The BSF’s jurisdiction has no boundaries on paper. Based on the estimate, the boundary is decided as to which village or city is under its purview. Sources say that the problem of smuggling of cattle across the border is very serious, especially in West Bengal. There, after getting information about the gathering of smugglers including animals in a village near the border, due to the short distance from the border, it is not possible for the BSF to stop smuggling many times. Now when the radius is 50 km, information about the activities of smugglers will be available in advance. A former BSF officer, who has worked in West Bengal for a long time, says, “The BSF has not had a good record in terms of human rights in the border areas. So the concern of the people of the area is justified. It has to be monitored that the rights are not misused. BJP is in power in Assam to oppose the decision, so the government there has not expressed any protest about it.

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But the ruling political parties in Punjab and West Bengal are vocal against this decision. Especially in West Bengal, there is more opposition to it. The reason for this is that the state has a border of about 2,216 km with Bangladesh. Angered by the decision, the state government has accused the Center of damaging the federal structure. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in Bengal has called this decision an encroachment on the rights of the state and an attack on the federal structure of the country. TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asks why the sudden need to expand the BSF’s jurisdiction without informing the state government? This is an attack on the federal structure. “If the BSF has to conduct searches somewhere, it can do so in collaboration with the state police as before. This has been the practice for a long time. It is an attack on the federal structure,” he said. On the other hand, Bengal Congress President Adhir Chowdhury has warned that the move could have dire consequences for the Union Home Ministry, saying that in some states, expanding the BSF’s jurisdiction to 50 km from the border is openly violating the territory of the states. He says that the Ministry of Home Affairs should not tamper with the authority of the states. The Punjab government has also opposed the decision and raised the demand for its immediate withdrawal.

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