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Apologise, top newspaper tells India

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The screenshot of the editorial in The Hindu which asked India to apologise for BSF brutality on a Bangladeshi citizen.

LEADING Indian newspaper ‘The Hindu’ has asked India to make an “unreserved apology” to Bangladesh for Border Security Force’s brutal torture of a Bangladeshi man shown in a recent video.

“Not surprisingly, the telltale video has caused widespread outrage in Bangladesh. A remark by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that the incident must not be hyped, echoed by a Bangladeshi Minister, seems only to have provoked more anger and fuelled opposition allegations against the Sheikh Hasina government for being “pro-India”, the editorial said.

Indian TV channels had aired the video showing the Bangladeshi national being assaulted by BSF men at a place near India-Bangladesh border in Paschimbanga‘s Murshidabad district.

“…..New Delhi needs to guard against becoming an unwitting cause for political instability in its eastern neighbour. Anti-India sentiment has been high in Bangladesh since the killing of three of its nationals by the BSF in two separate incidents on the border last month,” the daily noted.

A still from a video footage showing BSF personnel brutally torturing a Bangladeshi citizen. The grab was taken from NDTV .

Pointing out that “a March 2011 agreement between the two countries not to use firearms in dealing with illegal activities on the border has brought down the number of such incidents,” it said “but the video is evidence that the guards feel free to use other forms of violence. It underlines the fact that such bilateral agreements on the management of their complex boundary are worth nothing unless accompanied by a change in the mindset of those responsible for it on the ground.”

“The distressing 11.56 minute footage, circulated through YouTube, is quite evidently a trophy video, the guards happy to pose as they strip their victim, tie his hands and feet, and beat him mercilessly while discussing among themselves other severe options of dealing with him. The man was a suspected rustler — the border is notorious for cattle smuggling — and it has been alleged by rights activists in Bangladesh that the guards were punishing him for not paying them a bribe.

“The guards appear to have such an entrenched sense of impunity that the thought of being found out and punished does not seem to cross their minds as they participate in the abuse. The BSF has suspended the eight guards involved in the distressing episode and ordered an investigation. While it may be convenient for the paramilitary to treat this as an isolated incident of rogue personnel, the inquiry needs to focus on the overall climate of impunity that makes such incidents possible,” the newspaper said.

The BSF must also reflect if there is something missing in the training of its recruits that some of them are capable of such brutality. This is important because their conduct not only brings disrepute to the organisation but also risks jeopardising India’s relations with an important neighbour, according to the editorial.


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