The BSF as Pornographer: Bravehearts with Bluetooth

So, this is how the borders of the Republic of India are also defended. With sticks, ropes and bluetooth enabled mobile phones. Eight soldiers of the Border Security Force, hold down a young Bangladeshi man accused of cattle smuggling. He is stripped naked, hogtied and then thrashed. He screams in agony and humiliation. The soldiers act as if they are out on a picnic. They discuss whether or not to give him some tea. Where to hurt him, on which body parts. How big a stick to use on him. Someone says “cut his ear off”. They stroll casually around him as he is humiliated. They laugh. He cries, as people usually do in these circumstances, and seems to call for his mother. Someone, probably one of the soldiers, records it all on video, on the 9th of December, 2010, somewhere along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Murshidabad, West Bengal

I am not embedding the video, which is as of now, still available on Youtube and circulating through Facebook Forwards because I feel the images it contains are a little too disturbing to upload on a blog like Kafila. However, all you have to do to see it is to type ‘INDIA: Violence by the BSF at Murshidabad” in the Youtube search bar. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.

If you do access the footage online I urge you to remember that this video was taken with the express intention of humiliating the man who is shown being beaten. It is my request that readers of Kafila, and anyone else who comes across this text (and I can do nothing other than request here) refrain from doing anything that might add to the Bangladeshi man’s humiliation while they watch the footage, if they choose to open the link.

The soundtrack you hear is chilling. One of the BSF men, perhaps the man who is filming, (because his voice sounds like it is closest to the recording device), says, “don’t give him tea in our utensils, and wash it out, if he uses it. The sisterfucker, eats cows, the motherfucker”.

One of the other soldiers, he is one of those doing the actual thrashing, asks the person filming to make sure that he has him on camera as he humiliates their captive. He and another soldier pose, like hunters with a trophy. One of them plants one well-shod foot on the prone, naked man. The soldier who asks to be photographed, makes another request to the man doing the filming. He wants it ‘bluetoothed’ to him. And so it goes on. And on. The recording lasts five minutes.

It is alleged that the man was tortured because he refused to pay the soliders at the BSF picket a bribe. If this is true then it becomes especially interesting to observe that the torturer-in-chief, who is so piously offended at beef-eating that he wants anything that touches the offender’s body to be ‘cleansed’ after contact is so eager to take a bribe that he has no moral compunction in unleashing (as punishment) a little bit of non-consensual recreational (for him and his mates) sadism on the side when he is refused one. Is this the kind of sophisticated and nuanced moral sense that prevails amongst responsible members of our security forces stationed at the border?

The Hindu carries a fair and honest report of this incident.  And the NDTV report (below) says much of what needs to be said.

It is heartening to see that this story was broken by sections of the mainstream media, and in a welcome departure from the norm, no attempt at whitewashing the culprits was made this time. The Daily Star, a newspaper from Dhaka, Bangladesh has a comprehensive report of the incident, and names the eight BSF jawans we see in the video. The journalists who filed these reports, and the editors who let them through, deserve our gratitude.

But there has been a surprisingly mute response by way of commentary or public discussion. Remember the kilobytes of outrage that poured out of every media orifice when a few Indian students were attacked in Australia? But then, they were Indians, and that was Australia. It would be fair to say that had this happened somewhere else, heads would have rolled. There would have been demands that the minister concerned, in this case, Mr. P. Chidambaram, resign. I have not heard of the Indian state offering the people of Bangladesh the courtesy of an apology. And if an apology has been articulated, I haven’t heard it being said loud enough. If this had happened to an animal, Menaka Gandhi would have toppled two governments by now.

Nothing of that sort has occurred, as yet. Yes, a senior BSF officer has stated that the eight jawans have been suspended with immediate notice, and an enquiry is underway, and that if found guilty, they will be punished. We need to ask whether this is enough.

This is not an an exceptional occurrence. Perhaps in this case the young man being humiliated survived his ordeal. I hope so, because he may just as well not have. Gratuitous violence by the Border Security Force on the India-Bangladesh Border is a systematic and ongoing phenomenon. This has been well documented.

Trigger Happy : Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border” a report jointly prepared by Human Rights Watch, and two human rights activists organizations from West Bengal (MASUM) and Bangladesh (Odhikar) lists 315 killings of Bangladeshis by the BSF at the India-Bangladesh Border between 2007 and June 2010 alone.

Subsequent to the publication of this report (which went largely unnoticed in the media in India), Human Rights Watch says in a statement that the Government of India agreed to draw up guidelines for BSF soldiers not to use lethal weapons at the border. Consequently, while initially, the number of deaths did decrease, the old pattern of killings at the border soon re-established itself. The only difference was, now, the soldiers were not shooting people dead, (because they had orders not to use bullets) they were simply beating them to death, or otherwise torturing them, and sometimes these instances of torture did end in death. Whenever this happened, the bodies would be ‘thrown across the border’.

I have written (in an earlier posting – Kashmir’s Abu Ghraib) about the specific genre of pornography that is produced by people in uniform across the world. We all remember the videos of young men being stripped naked and humiliated by security forces personnel in Kashmir that came to surface in 2010. There was, at that time a concerted effort made by unknown agencies to take those videos off from Facebook and Youtube. Home Minister, P Chidambaram denied that they even existed. No departmental enquiry was ordered. No one was suspended. No one punished. But the one thing that those videos (from Kashmir) and this video (from the Bangladesh border) do demonstrate is that there does seem to be a ‘culture’ within the security forces that has, or finds, a place for these kinds of actions. The casualness with which the recordings are made, and the torture undertaken, suggest that what is going on is nothing exceptional.

These are not the deeds of a few ‘bad apples’. The suspension, or even dismissal of eight BSF personnel is not going to make this go away. There is a clear pattern of authority between the torturers, some of them give orders, others act on them.

These are not wild young men on the loose, with no authority supervising their actions. These are soldiers going about their business. Perhaps it is time for us to consider that this might in fact be the norm. At the very least we have to admit that there seems to have been no effective input in the training of these soldiers that has discouraged this sort of activity. Is it also appropriate for us to ask whether that great Indian pastime of ‘stripping and parading’ all kinds of vulnerable people, dalits, dalit women, and others through the streets of towns and villages that we hear about ever so often is some kind of repressed meme that suddenly replicates itself in other instances where power meets its objects – in police lock ups, interrogation rooms, ‘border areas’ and other liminal zones.

It this is the case, then this kind of behavior will probably continue, and the only way for the state to deal with this reality is to try and enforce a lock down on the internet to prevent its secret sense of impunity from being more of what it already is – a public secret. It is not accidental that the state in India seems to be in an impatient haste to crack down on the internet. A judge asks, while deliberating on the recent private complaint against Facebook and Google, on the grounds that some webpages offend the religious sentiments of the population –  “if they can be closed down in China, why can’t they be shut down in India ?” How convenient that would be for the brave hearts of the Border Security Force. They could then blue tooth their gonzo blue films to each other with ease, only we would never know.

If it is legitimate to consider the shutting down of vast stretches of the internet to assuage the injured sentiments of some, it is, in my considered view, equally, if not actually more legitimate to demand the shutting down of the state because its acts are monotonously injurious (and sometimes lethally so) not just to the sentiments, but to the bodies and dignities of many.

Time for an annoying question, and I mean to be annoying, really annoying. So, if an enquiry can be ordered about the Bangladesh Border incident, why can an enquiry not be ordered about what was filmed in Kashmir? Perhaps because it is kind of important not to annoy Bangladeshis more than they have been annoyed already. After all, there might be another attempt at an ‘anti-India’ coup. One was being plotted in the last few weeks. (We and the people of Bangladesh have reason to be genuinely grateful that they are not waking up to yet another spell of military rule.) So, better to admit that something terrible indeed happened. Grit one’s teeth and await the oblivion of an ‘enquiry’, because under the BSF act, generally speaking, only the BSF can act against and investigate its own men. No prosecution of BSF personnel is possible except by the express permission of the Union Home Ministry. I do not know if that permission has ever been granted.

In a discussion on Times Now last evening on the foiled coup attempt in neighboring Bangladesh. A former diplomat on the panel made a discreet suggestion that the BSF Bluetooth Blunder at the Bangladesh Border was an unfortunate turn of events. She felt, correctly, that the exposure of the footage might have contributed to damaging India’s ‘image’ in Bangladesh, and therefore we ought to be grateful that an ‘anti-India’ military coup had been averted. She was thoughtful while she said this.

Without batting an eyelid, a few minutes later, Arnab Goswami, expressing concern at the volatility of ‘our neighborhood’ stated the following (around 5:00 in the Newshour video fragment linked to above) –  “We cannot let this state of anarchy continue in Bangladesh because it is the chicken’s neck that connects all of the North East with India…if China can have military bases in South Asian region, naval bases in Pakistan…Sri Lanka…simple question is, why cannot India have a stronger military or naval presence – in Bangladesh?”. I suppose he was so excited by the thought of BSF soldiers humiliating Bangladeshi cattle traders that he could not resist vocalizing his  desire to see Indian security forces personnel humiliate and virtually rape the entire population of Bangladesh, as they do so well in this video with one man when they get hold of him. After all, if the Pakistani army had done this so successfully in the years leading up to 1971. Why should the Indian army not be allowed full freedom to do the same ? What the Pakistani Army can do, in the imagined South Asia of Arnab Goswami’s dream, the Indian Army can do, oh so much better.

Despite (or should I say because of) the inspiring presence of Arnab Goswami in our lives, one can still pause to imagine what the shape of justice might be in response to a situation like this. Remember, it is just six days to Republic Day. The spit and polish, pomp and circumstance of the Indian state will be on proud display. There will be tanks and floats and folk dancers, air-crafts in formation, brass brands and marching squads. Imagine just  how appropriate it would be if this time, the BSF contingent were to be led by the eight men who stripped and humiliated a Bangladeshi man in Murshidabad district. We should not be denied the inspiring sight of them marching proudly, hog-tied, with bluetooth enabled mobile phones clasped between their teeth, naked, in the cold delhi morning of the 26th of January. Perhaps they could jerk their heads once in salute, biting precisely into the button on their phones that could blue-tooth their brave deeds to the world as they passed the president’s podium. Every Indian would see it on TV and on their mobile phones. We all need to know how well our borders are being defended.

From Kafila archives:

50 thoughts on “The BSF as Pornographer: Bravehearts with Bluetooth”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better. Meanwhile, we will always have the Jingoistic patriots who crow about the armed forces and their sacrifices. Don’t even get me started on the rag of a newspaper and its equally trashy news channel ably represented by the said Goswami.
    I have an uncle who is a serving Lt Gen of the army and I am so glad I am not a part of their culture. I have said this enough times before and I shall say it now – our illusion about a perfect army and other wings is completely misplaced. People with power will misuse it because they have the power. In the meantime, we have candle light vigils for our brave hearts who died in some godforsaken corner of the country and we shall lament the demise of jawans and (beg your pardon for the Raj vocabulary) the batmen who serve the pious officers of our armed forces. But if we find an officer martyred in the line of duty then we have stories on blogs and articles in papers and the net about the whole incident.
    A prime example would be Nachiketa, shot down over the Pak border. Irresponsibility is being rewarded with stories of heroism and accolades. Of course, he is not dead. But he would have wished he were, if his senior officers had more sense.
    Let me just light a candle for our bluetooth bravehearts, because in our hearts they are just as dead as the martyrs we idolize. Not because we need to remember them, but they will soon be just as forgotten as the martyrs. Long live our country!


    1. Dear Tejaswi,

      I really liked the casualness with which you mentioned “some godforsaken corner” of this nation, because that is where most of her army is stationed. It is the same casualness with which most of our distinguished intellectuals and countrymen and women like to treat the profession of soldering which in any case is not worth much in a country like ours. At least in the eyes of people like you, whose only association with it seems to be from “a uncle” whose is or was a Lt Gen. I wonder if you have ever asked your uncle as to how many “batmen” he employs at his house or what has he given back to the organisation and its men who have put such faith in him and his capabilities that he has risen to such heights. Perhaps this thought would not have even crossed your mind. Because for that you have to spend countless days and nights in some godforsaken mountain or a jungle battling enemies, punishing weather and packaged ration in the name of food. And if you happen to be a “pious officer” you also battle anxiety, loneliness and crushing sense of responsibility towards your duty and the men you command. I used the word “crushing” because usually one is thrust into the middle of this at a ripe age between 23 to 30. its is in such circumstances that you or “the media” hear and write about one among many countless martyrs who have given up their life for this nation and its inhabitants like you and me.

      I must tell you that i condemn the actions to the BSF men and they must be dealt in a manner befitting the heinous act they have committed. But they do not represent army or BSF, just like your uncle doesn’t represent what Indian Army is all about. My humble request is that do not pass your opinion on a institution with such a narrow vision. For every black sheep it has with in its rank and file , it also has men of great honour , courage and moral uprightness who even at great cost to them and their loved ones has made sure that people inside our borders go on with their lives blissfully.

      And ask any soldier who has had the fortune of seeing the enemy or death in the eyes and has lived to tell his story , he will only say that he will be the last one to wish for a war or any kind of violence , if only his countrymen and women can promise him that if at all he winks , the walls of his cherished motherland will not crumble from inside.

      Can you make that promise ?


      1. Yes, you are probably right. I am not as erudite or as closely associated with the defence forces as I imagined :)
        Thank you for enlightening me. I only mentioned what I had seen over the years in various stations and the kind of insidious corruption that goes on unabated. But you are probably right that I do not know as much as I presume I know.
        I have not idea what that last line about a wink and a promise meant. But I presume, blink. Yes, I do hope there is no internal crumbling of the cherished motherland.



  2. Correct, BSF should have asked that smuggler to leave the cows, and sent him back to Bangladesh, respectfully! That’d have ensured no bad sentiments from the Bangladeshis!

    Because Indians believe in Athithi Devo Bhava, we should treat all smugglers, thieves, robbers (rapists?) as our guests and treat them well.


    1. Nitin, what you call smuggling, i call trade. And yes, i do believe that they should be allowed to move as they wish. As for the BSF, I don’t believe in borders, so I have no necessity of believing in the security of borders. I hope that one day the standing armies and para-militaries that oppress the peoples of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan wither away like a fading nightmare. The majority of Bangladeshis who live in Indian cities, (albeit illegally, which is a shame, they should have work permits and full legal freedom to live here, just as Indians should have every freedom to live and work in Bangladesh.) are decent, hard-working, enterprising people. They contribute to the economy of our cities, and keep them alive and working. Yes, they are our guests. And yes, we should be true to the ideal of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ and treat them (or any one, for that matter) with the friendship and hospitality that they deserve.


      1. >>Nitin, what you call smuggling, i call trade.


        Shuddhabrata, you were ill-advised to call the young Bangladeshi a “cattle rustler”. His crime, such as it is, was cattle smuggling, not cattle theft. Which leaves a question unasked and unanswered: who sold him those cows and bulls?


      2. Shuddhabrata,

        I dont believe in borders and I do believe in open/fair trade practices (as you do).

        But you should be targeting the failure of politics and bilateral relations with the neighbors, instead of placing the blame on BSF. BSF exists because India hasn’t been strong enough to mend its borders.


      3. you dumb ass you know In undivided India anyone could have worked anywhere in indian subcontinent. It was pakistan and (now bangladesh) who dvided the country on religion hatred. You are a moronfor sure.


      4. You may want to live in Bangladesh or Pakistan (and you are MOST welcome to do so by taking their citizenship). I do not nor do I want Pakis and Bangladeshis living illegally in my country (yes MY country)! If their government is unable to provide them economic and social security that does not mean that it is the Indian government’s job to do so!!!! The Indian government’s job is to look after the welfare of its own citizens not of citizens of another country. The pakis and bangladeshis CHOSE to separate themselves from India (and thank god for that other wise we wld have those fanatics pulling us down into the mud)! The Indian government has NO obligation whatsoever towards the citizens of those countries. I have far more respect for an army personnel than for any of the so-called activists infesting our country in the name of fighting for some imaginary sins of the state.


    2. i have personally been witness (for many years) to rampant smuggling of cows from across the border (via Malda) into Bangladesh. the BSF is paid handsomely to allow this trade. this is probably one of those instances where their palms were not greased enough. BSF men will not eat cows but are willing to trade them to be slaughtered and relished across the border. whose cow is it anyway?


      1. Well said Aslam, Hindus who squeeze a cow dry and then sell it for slaughter are bigger sinners for their hypocrisy I am a Hindu and I am a vegan.


  3. From blogger Rumi:

    Felani’s Hanging Body, Connectivity and our quiet Government
    January 13th 2011

    A new year came upon us, so is the 3rd year of the government of Sheikh Hasina- HM Ershad- Hasanul Inu – Maolana Misbah-Ul-Islam- Comrade Moinuddin Khan Badal. Under siege by police and neo-gestapo RAB; the new years eve was fairly uneventful. At least there was no public display of sexual harassment in the form of a torn clothe student at Dhaka University Student center premises.

    There were some upheavals though. The long line for the upcoming World Cup Cricket tickets were lead news/ talking point in the news media. The world cup ticket hoopla was duly followed by nearly 24/7 news coverage of the roller coaster ride of the stock market. TV news as well as the talk shows were all filled with footage of angry investors, bleeding from RAB baton Charge, rallying and pelting stones at nearby cars and government offices. The Government took the challenge politically and made sure that the following day the stock index rebound with a two fold vigor.

    Other than all these discussable and forgettable stuff, the new year as well as the second year anniversary of Hasina Ershad brother sister Government was supposed to be a happy and holy event. Well… except for the unhappy and ugly scene of a bright red deep blue spot hanging fifteen feet above the ground on our horizon.

    It is irony that her name was Felani. Like Kurani, Felani is Generic name in Bangla literature. While Kurani is the name of a little girl living on the street, Felani usually describes an orphan or poor girl who serves her master’s household 24/7 only two get abused and deprived. Felani was a born in a very poor family in Northern Bangladesh. It is that region of Bangladesh where ‘Monga’ — seasonal shortage of work and food is endemic. In quest of the most basic of basic human needs, at least once or twice a day food to meet hunger, five year old Felani, her parents, along with many others like them, crossed international political border and managed the lowest wage job in a far away land, in Southwest India. They would do the hardest and lowest paid jobs which even the locals would pass. At least there was a job for little Felani and her family and that ensured food to eat. While politicians can have political borders, basic need like hunger does not care for any border.

    While working as a child laborer carrying and washing brick in a far away land, Felani grew up and reached marriageable age per the standards of rural poor sections of Bangladesh. She was returning home after ten years to get married. All were set up.

    Poor folks cross the border for meeting basic living needs. They don’t read newspapers or blogs. They don’t understand India’s growing stature and accompanying security concern. They only heard that there are jobs in this and that far away land. The procession is rather big. Some will stop in nearby Calcutta, some will travel to Delhi, Bombay and half of them will cross another fearsome border to land in Karachi, Pakistan.

    Nahari’s mother used to help run errands in my grandmothers rural home in Chittagong. Two of her sons work in Pakistan. I met them during one of my trips. Many of them don’t have passport, visa — some don’t bother spending all the airfare money. For them getting into India costs more money and there are higher chances of getting arrested. Crossing border into Bangladesh costs much less, no chance of getting arrested but there are chances of getting killed.

    Indiscriminate killing of Bangladeshis in Indian border started soon after independence. But over the last few years the killings have become a near daily event. In a blog post Rezwan compiles different write ups on this issue and quotes Bangladeshi Human Rights organization Odhikar this way,

    Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar says in a report that BSF kills one Bangladeshi in every four days. It also says that BSF killed 74 innocent Bangladeshi citizens in 2010, injured seventy-two and kidnapped 43. In the past decade more than 1000 Bangladeshis were killed in the border regions by BSF.

    Like 13 year old Parul who was shot by Indian security, Felani was shot as she her traditional clothes got stuck high up in the barbed wire fence. Felani was alive reportedly at least 4 hours after being shot. Local villagers report hearing her screaming and asking for water.

    Felani bled to death. In the photos we see, blood could not be distinguished from her bright red and deep blue dress.

    Local people protested. Bangla blogosphere erupted. Some newspapers ( especially those cunning-smart ones who can read peoples pulse way in advance) published the news.

    And yet some folks saw Jamaati conspiracy to hamper “war Crimes trial” in Felani’s hanging dead body. Like the comment on a facebook page where image of Felani’s hanging body was posted. As one soul, in that facebook page, rather getting upset at the photo, questioned the source of the photo, other replies, ” It must be an act of the Jamaatis”.

    The Government kept quite quite. Not a single word about Felani could be heard from the mouth of our ever talking prime Minister or her men-women.

    Felani means disposable. Felani is really disposable to our Government. Felani’s death is not important enough to seek justice for or start a trial process.

    We want connectivity. We are enclosed with 15 feet high barbed wire from all sides to prevent connecting, yet we are for connectivity.

    Our folks are being shot and killed indiscriminately. Shoot at sight if caught in the process of connecting. Hell Yeah. We are for connectivity.

    India’s truck, 18 wheeler lorries will drive through Bangladesh via special road built for them with our peoples’ money. But Parul or Felani or many Shafiq, Rafiq, Karim, Habib will be shot to death if seen crossing India-Bangladesh border.

    If we talk more connectivity, more regional cooperation, like EU, why can’t we have EU style open border? Let’s open our borders. Let’s real economic cooperation begin. Let our Felani’s and their parents travel fearlessly providing cheap labor to the growing economies in this region.


    1. Dear Khujechi,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I hope that in my life-time we can have open borders between India and Bangladesh. And that never again would a Parul or a Felani have to die at the border. I know that the extreme right in Bangladesh, those who were associated with the war crimes during 1971 use every thing they can get to generate an anti-India hysteria. They don’t care for Felani and Paurl, their only concern is to cover the darkness of their own tracks. Their mirrors in India, the extreme right associated with Hindutva, use every opportunity that they can get to abuse and vilify the thousands of hard working Bangladeshi emigrants who live in our cities. Their prejudice percolates down to the BSF soldiers we see torturing the young man in the video of this incident. The future of South Asia will depend on all of us ensuring that these forces, in India and in Bangladesh are defeated, that the armies and para-militaries are withdrawn from our borders, and that freedom of movement (for people and cattle) and residence be guaranteed for all.


      1. Mr. Sengupta, you confuse me by your advocacy of open borders between India and Bangladesh, and then deriding the so called extreme right associated with Hindutva who, as I understand, have not yet reconciled with the partition of India. What is the difference? You and your apparent opponents are in the same league! You seem to equate the opposition of Bangladeshi infiltration in India to anti- Bangladesh sentiment. What kind of logic is this? A friendly relationship with a neighboring country does not mean that illegal immigration is also OK. If hard working Bangladeshi infiltrators must be amicably accepted in India, would you allow the same rights to Indians in Bangladesh? I mean, will your advocacy extend to Indians infiltrating in Bangladesh and making it a secular country? I believe, you have forgotten the mass exodus of Hindus from East Pakistan in 1947 and 1969-70. Were they not accommodated in India? Also accommodated were Muslim infiltrators, mostly in Assam and Bengal, displacing and creating hardship for mostly tribal habitants. Will you join the extreme Hindu right in shouting slogans for reunification of India? I will whole heartedly support you if your advocacy includes hard working Indians settling in Bangladesh. I doubt, Bangladeshis will like to treat their country as a de facto State of India, but may be you know better.


        1. I think open borders can easily co-exist with the presence of sovereign states. France and Germany, which fought two bitter world wars in the twentieth century, have an open border, as do all state of the EU. And people can travel, live and work within the EU as they please. Though of course the EU has horrible border policy towards all non-EU citizens, especially from Africa, South America and Asia, which I find unacceptable. I cite the EU case only to demonstrate that open borders need not contradict the sovereignty of nation state entities. I say this not to endorse the continuation of the nation state form ( a project in which I have no interest) but just to make a point for the benefit of those who continue to be invested in the idea of the nation state as a form of human association, even they need not consider open borders to be unthinkable.

          And yes, I have no problems with Indian nationals living and working in Bangladesh, just as I have no problems with Bangladeshi nationals living and working in India. I think human movement, migration and immigration ought not to be constrained within the straight-jackets of legality, and just as I think that the EU should immediately grant residency and ‘denizen’s’ rights to all those Indians detained and persecuted on the grounds of being ‘illegal immigrants’ so too, I think that it is time to say ‘no one is illegal’ on the grounds of where people choose to live and make a living. That is my considered opinion.

          My ultimate desire is the dissolution of the nation state form, not the expansion of the current territory of the Republic of India under some kind of ‘Akhand Bharat’ project. What I am arguing for is the irrelevance of the category of the nation state, not of nation state x swallowing nation state y or z. I hope i have made myself clear.


      2. Dear Suddhabrata,

        The movement of people from one area to another has consequences which cannot be brushed aside. Let along cross-border movements, can we forget that the Shiv Sena first came to prominence in the 1960s agitating against South Indians in Mumbai who were allegedly taking away the jobs of the local Maharashtrians. More recently, we have had the Maharashtra Navnirman Samiti’s Raj Thackarey expressing similar sentiments against Biharis. I am sure that one can think of other examples within and outside India.

        In the context of Bangladesh, I would urge you to note that the native Tripuris were reduced from a 80% majority to something like a 20% minority in their own state following population movement from Bangladesh. Is it surprising that there continues to be a — secessionist, liberation, whatever — movement in Tripura? This statement by Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, former leader of the Tripura National Volunteers, expressed in a letter to Indira Gandhi, makes matters quite clear:

        Armed insurgency was necessary to reach your heart. Either you deport all foreign nationals who infiltrated into Tripura after October 15, 1947 or settle them anywhere in India other than Tripura… We demand a free Tripura. (Source: Wikipedia)

        Your wish for a borderless world is fine but note that the consequences may not be what you want. Is it okay for “outsiders” to settle in areas where the Jarawa live? If no, why not? How about “outsiders” settling in Niyamgiri and using the strength of numbers to mine in the hill which the locals hold sacred? Is that okay? All that and more could also happen in the “borderless” world that you seem to hold so dear.

        As an Indian, I am ashamed of the way the BSF has behaved. I would like my country’s leaders to apologize to Bangladeshis; I apologize myself if it means anything. I would stop short, though, of advocating open borders. We have enough problems in India without adding some more. I would also urge you to note that the immediate consequence of an open border would be felt by the north-eastern states. I don’t think many there are particular desirous for an open border — but I may be mistaken.


  4. As one who lives near this accursed border and eats smuggled BD fish – this video was waiting to happen. My local newspaper almost weekly carries news items about valiant BSF acts – arresting BDs with pots and pans or in one case blanket…


  5. Our Guantanamo Bay:

    The event has only brought to light what many of us have known for a long time: the brutal violent and oppressive face of the armed forces/police/border guards in our country. Having worked erratically on the Western border of the country, where bhil and meghwals, and many other dalit sub-castes have been crossing over from Pakistan into Rajasthan; the gory violent tales of divided families, non-acceptance from either State, and on-going violence, loot, threat of deportation, and corruption are rather common. Instead of living in a collective shame, for depriving a fellow human being of all their dignity; the popular reactions border on pseudo-nationalistic pride, violent masculinity and chauvinism. “See-how-we showed-them-their-place”; “bhejo-waapas-jahaan-se-aaye-hai” are rather popular among the armed forces and border polices. And this when all stops are being pulled by the State to present the country as a tourist destination, welcoming the well-paying capitalist tourist. And no one else!

    Knowing the government, trapped as it is in presenting its investment friendly, capitalist face, little action will be taken beyond the suspension of these lower-rung constabulary. But it isn’t as if they are the only culprits. Armed with weapons, their hubris, and the abstracted notion of defending their country in the name of security, development and modernism; they are often fulfilling the fantasies and orders of their superiors.

    The blatant violations of the human rights of the displaced, migrant, refugee needs to be systematically archived into our museums of shame.

    I know of many cases from Rajasthan where many married women are not able to meet their mothers and brothers, due to divisions and fencing. Where the poor and dispossessed displaced from across the border end up working in the quarries as wage labour, with nothing to eat, no benefits and no documents. With repressive visa regimes, the mobility in the host/guest countries are suspended infinitely, in many cases for close to two decades.

    Despite not signing on the global refugee conventions, we do not, in any way, give ourselves the liberties to act with violence and deprive others of their dignities.


    1. Dear Arun,

      Thank you for your comment. You are right, the border(s), is/are ‘our Guantanamo Bay’. It would be great if you could write a detailed text on the situation on the Western Border, especially in Rajasthan. Borders and Visas are two great obscenities.


      1. Dear Shuddha: Please let me know what address should I send the script to. And any norms/guidelines beyond what is written on the kafila website will be useful.


    2. Dear Arun ,

      I completely agree with your opinion that the malice is not only at the lower level , but the rot goes all the way up. Let me ask you , now that you exactly know what the problem is, will you go all the way up. Will Mr Sengupta approach the “powers be” with his ” border less world” viewpoint. Will you garner support to bring a change in India foreign policy towards Bangladesh. How both countries are going to address the human migration. etc etc.

      i guess its little uncomfortable to pursue. But It’s very easy to tarnish the entire Army or BSF by making few men the face of these organisations. Because by doing this we have done the great Indian job. “Blame someone” ..!!


      1. Dear Vinod,

        I think you reduce our words/work when you label us as arm chair critics. While I continue to see the armed forces as an extension of the violence unleashed by the State, and its associated tropes of modernity, nationalism and development and I see no reason to change my opinion; but my words/work are not restricted to being an arm-chair critic. A vocation that I see nothing wrong in.

        I am more interested in and work for the rights of the displaced, and not in reforming the armed forces/police. Should that be your vocation, best wishes. For me, it is those left without agency, their rich histories and narratives undermined by global discourses of nation-state, boundaries, and chauvinism. And their subjectivities questioned and put to test: often in brutal ways: like the BSF jawans have done.

        And like I said in the reply to the post: this must be archived into our museums of shame. Notice: our; we don’t blame someone, we are after all a perpetrators, parts of: active or as audiences, the many injustices meted out to us/them.


      1. I spotted this error: “….. lists 315 killings of Bangladeshis by the BSF at the India-Bangladesh Border between 2007 and June 20110 alone.” Do u mean 2010 or 2011?


  6. What purpose is being served by circulating this extremely disturbing video on social media (so infamous for its armchair activism) and then asking people to “respect the dignity” of the man being brutalized, as some people are doing, or to not “add to his humiliation”? How do you respect his dignity while engaging in the voyeuristic act of watching the graphic video? Writing about it, protesting very strongly against it—all that is critically necessary. But having people on social media watch it, over and over…? If, as some bloggers are saying, this is a “reality check” for people who glorify the armed forces—then have a look at some of the comments below the video on Youtube—many of them are applauding the BSF! And this so-called check comes at the cost of this man’s humiliation and brutalization being circulated—without his (if he is still alive) or his family’s consent or knowledge—on the usually vacuous social media that these targeted viewers/ disbelievers inhabit.


  7. Rumi posting on Facebook:

    Bangladesh should thank India’s government for not killing this man. Our PM can send some minister (may be Foreign Minister Dipu Moni) or she herself can go with Hilsha fish, Rosogolla, Doi to thank India’s Prime Minister for such a nice treatment on a Bangladeshi citizen.

    People/ Media say one Habibur Rahman Habu was tortured, humiliated and beaten to near death and left for death in a mustard field. I say this is not Habibur Rahman. This is our Bangladesh, humiliated, stripped naked, made fun of, tortured by an abusive Indian hagemony. Every single bamboo stick hit is one Farakka, one Tipaimukh, one teesta, One Felani.

    In a utter stroke of chance, this incidence came out in public. But this is happening every single day in Indo-Bangladesh border. 1000 people have been killed by India’s border guards in last ten years. Now a days one Bangladeshi is being killed every four day in this border, making it the bloodiest border in the world.


  8. The illegal immigration of Bangladeshis into West Bengal and some others into Assam is not the problem of West Bengal or Assam alone but of the entire country since the entire nation will suffer for inaction to curb the same and drive back those who illegally entered. The Bangladeshis who have already carried out ethnic cleansing in their country and reduced the proportion of Hindu population there from near 20% to barely 10% today (in contrast the proportion of Muslims in WB is constantly increasing and that of Hindus relatively falling), have no shame in exaggerating the so-called violence and murders of illegal entrants into India. If it be the bloodiest border in the world, would the world media have remained silent so far, not to speak of our own Indian national media? The excesses of BSF Jawans, no doubt, have to be condemned and the guilty punished (it seems already 6 or so Jawans were suspended), but at the same time the atrocities on Bangladeshi Hindus and other liberal Muslims even in Bangladesh by the State as also by fanatics can in no way be condoned or underestimated.


  9. (1)Those involved should be punished. The security personnel should be punished. The smuggler should be punished. The corrupt should be punished.

    (2) I wonder what legal action can be taken against some one who suggests that smuggling is trade, and that India should trash its constitutionally established judiciary and that the Republic day parade should like Friday prayers in many countries, be the venue for delivering barbaric punishments.

    (3) It is a pity that the author of this report makes eating sentient creatures a virtue.

    (4)Bengalis should however not forget the pre-independence brutality in what is now Bangladesh.

    (4) If Bangladeshis wish to trespass into India without impunity – why this fig-leaf of nationhood?

    (5) The Indian army keeps peace, the other armies are fomenting war. It is childish to bracket the perpetrators and the victims of a crime in the same bracket. There was a quip on FB that while the Indian government decides when a General retires, a General decides when the Pakistani government retires.

    (6) Is there evidence that abuse by border security personnel is statistically significant? Is there any evidence to support the allegation that Bangladeshi illegal infiltrators are abused in India? If the border is so dangerous why don’t the Bangladeshi’s stay away from it?

    (7) One action of the author is commendable – he has not shared the video – to respect the dignity of the abused.

    (8) Author could do well to acquaint himself with the treatment the EU and its members (or aspiring members) gives to the Roma – Europe’s largest and most abused ethnic minority. Does he know that the EU’s open doors are only for the rich and white?

    (9) Would the author treat a thief in his house like an atithi?

    (10) Does the author have evidence that striping as an abuse is more significant in India than other parts of the world?


    1. (1)Those involved should be punished. The security personnel should be punished. The smuggler should be punished. The corrupt should be punished.

      Indeed. Let us agree on this one point.

      (2) I wonder what legal action can be taken against some one who suggests that smuggling is trade, and that India should trash its constitutionally established judiciary and that the Republic day parade should like Friday prayers in many countries, be the venue for delivering barbaric punishments.

      One does not often understand irony. However, even if one missed the irony, the statement would still stand true and I, for one, would be quite happy about it. But if you are looking for ways to prosecute the author I am sure you could take the PIL route. Barbaric punishment? Like an eye-for-an-eye? You are right. It is barbaric.

      (3) It is a pity that the author of this report makes eating sentient creatures a virtue.
      I think you should stop eating the poor plants and vegetables. At least the goats can bleat and the chicken can squawk when they are butchered. But the poor mute plants! Oh fish, I forgot fish. Some of them do talk you know. But I get the point. Vegetarians should kill all the non-vegetarians asap – all in the name of protecting sentient creatures. Er.. are we sentient creatures as well?

      (4)Bengalis should however not forget the pre-independence brutality in what is now Bangladesh.
      They never will. However a few bengalis seem to have done exactly that and are now writing books that glorify the role of the Pak Army and the dignity with which they conducted the operations.

      (4) If Bangladeshis wish to trespass into India without impunity – why this fig-leaf of nationhood?

      Hmm.. yeah why? What about the Nepali gurkhas in our metros and towns? Hmm, we need to do something about this.

      (5) The Indian army keeps peace, the other armies are fomenting war. It is childish to bracket the perpetrators and the victims of a crime in the same bracket. There was a quip on FB that while the Indian government decides when a General retires, a General decides when the Pakistani government retires.

      Oh yes, I understand that part extremely well. One uncle was with the peace keeping force in Sri Lanka and another was in the former Yugoslavia. I do understand peace keeping. At least one of my uncles is richer with combing operations conducted in urban areas looking for LTTE insurgents. I am being silly with this. But, we did do a little dance about the people blinded by the Bangla border police a few years ago. Was that possibly a similar kind of incident? Or are we limited to criticizing only those armies fomenting trouble for us??

      (6) Is there evidence that abuse by border security personnel is statistically significant? Is there any evidence to support the allegation that Bangladeshi illegal infiltrators are abused in India? If the border is so dangerous why don’t the Bangladeshi’s stay away from it?

      Umm… all those Mehtas and Shahs living in the white world. If they are so offended by the racism prevalent there, why don’t they stay away? We do a little Rhumba in agony when we find an Indian assaulted anywhere in the world. But you are right again. We should tell those poor sods to stay away from us. I do hope the other whites share your views about similar immigrants in their country.

      (7) One action of the author is commendable – he has not shared the video – to respect the dignity of the abused.
      Oh??? Abused? Where? How? What? I thought you said that the perpetrators and the victims could not be bracketed together? Oh, I get it.. those brave BSF jawans – the real victims of the sentient-creature-eaters. Oh, black day.

      (8) Author could do well to acquaint himself with the treatment the EU and its members (or aspiring members) gives to the Roma – Europe’s largest and most abused ethnic minority. Does he know that the EU’s open doors are only for the rich and white?
      I am sure he doesn’t. But have you recently chased any Lumbanis or Phardis or similar “thieving tribes” from your vicinity lately? You should, I think.

      (9) Would the author treat a thief in his house like an atithi?
      Er… victims or thieves? Make up your mind. But to answer your point, yes. At least for me, that is true.

      (10) Does the author have evidence that striping as an abuse is more significant in India than other parts of the world?

      Er. no, probably more in Africa because of the Zebras there. However, if you are talking of stripping, then I would say that it is probably true that most people in the subcontinent consider stripping a heinous offence. Is it more significant? Certainly. However, if you mean more prevalent, then hmm.. we need to talk to those people in the hindi belt who take dalits to the wash everyday.

      I know that my comments above are rather frivolous and flippant. Also, it was addressed to the author and I need not have barged in. But I thank you for giving us all the opportunity to reply to your very considerate post. I am sure a lot of other readers not unlike yourself would be offended by my answers. I am delighted, if it is indeed so.

      Ka kite, my friend.


      1. @Tejaswi – (1) (2) Thanks

        (3)The degrees to which a person is civilised is a function of how destructive his footprint on the earth is. Stick to verifiable facts and not fairy tales.

        (4) It is legal for Nepali’s to be in India. They are not trespassers. Is law difficult to understand?

        (5) I didn’t mean international peace keeping

        (6)(a) Instead of making wild allegations the author ought to come with statistics from reliable and verifiable sources for example compare the US – Mexican border and the India Bangladesh border. (b)Is it so difficult to understand? – If B’deshi’s wish to come to India/ trade with India they should do so legally. There have been many Indian’s abused and brutalised by governments, traffickers, all over the world – Malaysia to United States – why is this so difficult to understand – check this story – one of the millions available. If the border is dangerous for those who are involved in illegal acts – I think that is how the world should be – safe for those who follow the law and unsafe for those who don’t.

        (7) (9) Please do not jump to conclusions – victim x perpetrator was used in the context of India’s encounters with its neighbours and not in relation to this incident.

        (8) Remember apartheid and South Africa? EU treats Roma like that. There is systemised abuse of the Roma. If Indian police are abusing or profiling Pardhi’s the police are indulging in illegal acts and if anyone is aware of such abuse it should be reported so that action is taken against the concerned police officers.

        (10) Are you aware that atrocity literature is a multi-national industry? Please check and get back. I didn’t find the replies offensive – I would describe them as uninformed.


  10. Is Pranab-da talking to Indian or Bangladeshi media?

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Don’t blow it up, India says on BSF torture

    Star Online Report
    With a video footage showing Indian border guards brutally torturing a Bangladeshi still a major topic of talks across the country, India on Saturday said the media should not “blow it out of proportions”.

    “Such incidents often take place at the border. There is no need to blow them out of proportions,” Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in Kolkata, reporters our New Delhi correspondent.

    He said governments of India and Bangladesh would resolve the issue through discussions.

    A video footage of December 9 aired by several Indian TV channels over the past few days showed some men in BSF fatigue brutally torturing a Bangladeshi national after stripping and tying him to a stick near the Murshidabad border.

    The BSF has already suspended eight of its personnel in connection with the incident and has ordered a full-fledged probe into it.

    The foreign ministry of Bangladesh has already protested the “violent action” by the Indian BSF and wanted India to thoroughly probe the incident.


  11. Here is an article Violent sex crimes by U.S. Army soldiers rise -report

    with stats see
    *Compound these results with the fact that these stats are domestic.
    *Compound these results with the fact that that the US army is not engaged in an internal security role.
    *Compound these results by a figure of 40, that many times US is richer than India per capita


  12. Considering the post and the comments about open borders, free trade, work permits, bribes and BSF, I would recommend Rites of Passage by Sanjoy Hazarika – mostly unbiased study of the socio-economic aspects of life in and around the Indo-Bangladesh border.


  13. The friends of Bangladeshi inflators can NOT hoestly COMMENT about the whole issue unless suffer their presence as in Assam and Bangal. AASU brought the issue up long time back without support because of these kind of “OPEN MINDED” people.Inflators have brought the crime graph up as their population in log scale including painting a very confusing image to our lovely Assamese Muslims and I am sure same in Bengal too. . It is very easy to discuss problems in a five star environments which DOES NOT give any solution.


  14. The case reported by Shuddha has little to do with cross-border trade, BSF, etc. It belongs to the “specific genre of pornography exhibited by armed men in uniform,” as Shuddha put it. In two recent incidents in Chhattisgarh, CRPF men caught two adivasis, alleged to be maoists, stripped them naked and put their genitals on fire after the usual humiliation of the rest of their bodies. Both men were handed over to Chhattisgarh police after three days of sustained torture. One allegedly committed suicide in the police cell, the other attempted to do so. I am unaware of any outrage as yet from any quarter. I wrote a quick piece that was quickly refused.


    1. I wrote a quick piece that was quickly refused.

      Why don’t you publish the piece here? It is essential that a record of these shameful episodes be kept and not simply forgotten as “statistics.”


      1. Thanks and I agree, but Shuddha has made the basic point already. After Kashmir and Manipur, what is happening in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand just illustrate how atrocious abuse of rights and dignity mount in the absence of strong civil protest. Local activists in Chhattisgarh are trying their best, mostly in vain. Further, they themselves are target as the cases of Linga Kodopi and Soni Sori show.


  15. India on Tuesday regretted the recent deaths of three Bangladesh nationals in the incidents of firing by the BSF along the border.

    Amid ongoing criticism over the torture of a Bangladeshi cattle trader, the Indian Border Security Force shot dead a Bangladeshi at the Dhannokhola border on Saturday morning.
    Three others were also wounded in the incident.

    A 2010 report by New York-based Human Rights Watch said the BSF had killed 1,000 Bangladeshis in 10 years at the borders while incidents of torture are innumerable.


  16. Daily Star
    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Why are BSF men so angry?
    Mohammad Badrul Ahsan

    NEWTON’S third law of motion certainly doesn’t work on the India-Bangladesh border, because what Indian Border Security Force does unto Bangladeshi citizens aren’t reportedly done unto Indian citizens by Border Guards of Bangladesh and weren’t reportedly done by its predecessor Bangladesh Rifles. The comparison is not intended to provoke retaliation from the Bangladesh side, but to draw an obvious contrast between the border guarding forces of the two countries for a valid reason. If BGB or BDR could exercise restraint on this side of the border, why is BSF on that side so brazen in its behaviour?

    The Indian border guards have been in the news again after eight of their men stripped, kicked, and mercilessly beat up a young Bangladeshi named Habibur Rahman apparently because he refused to bribe them or didn’t bribe them enough. Should every action have an equal and opposite reaction, Indians should have occasionally received similar treatment in the hands of Bangladeshi border guards. But that didn’t happen in last one decade when BSF killed at least 1,000 Bangladeshi nationals and maimed many times more.

    This is not only amazing, but also interesting. How is it possible that two forces on two sides of the border could be so dissimilar in temperament? One side is decent and composed. The other side is psychotic and ruthless.

    In his reaction to the latest depravity of BSF men, our LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said something that ought to shock sensible people out of their wits. In his view the state doesn’t need to worry about everything that happens on the border. He listed smuggling, drug dealing and cattle trade as causes of border incidents, which lead to disputes followed by abominable atrocities.

    If we are to believe in that grandiose theory of state minimalism, then India shouldn’t have so promptly suspended those BSF jawans involved in the December 9 incident and ordered a full investigation into the matter. It’s obvious that our honourable minister has missed the point. The state is like a circle whose center is nothing unless one has also drawn its circumference.

    An Indian diplomat once told me that the border incidents merely revealed the sultry side of paltry business interests when deals go sour between the smugglers and the security forces. If that is true then it makes the title question of this essay ring out even louder. Why do deals always go wrong with BSF men, since BGB men are not involved in harsh treatment of Indian citizens?

    How it happens is a mystery. If it takes two hands to clap, so does smuggling. Smugglers carry goods across the border from one side to another, and every transaction encompasses both sides. That means every transaction must have the blessings of both sides, which should have similar interests in the game. But what disturbs BSF so much that they must get more upset than BGB?

    Perhaps the Indian authorities should investigate more into that aspect of their border security men. It’s more important to find why they get so angry instead of what they do after they get angry. May be they should also compare and contrast their men with our men to understand why two groups handling similar burdens of anxiety and temptation should demonstrate such disparate mindsets?

    If the members of a trained force of the world’s largest democracy can so brutally torture an ordinary foreign national as shown on the video clip, it should be a matter of grave concern for rest of the world. As neighbour, we should be particularly worried about what lurks in the heart of that monolithic state that raises so much aggression in its men. That is where, our LGRD minister should know, the state is responsible for its border more than merely defending it.

    Because a nation is both centrifugal and centripetal in the nature of its business that simultaneously pull it towards the centre and push it towards the circumference. Indian daily The Hindu has asked its government to apologise for the misdemeanour of its security men. It was the Indians who nursed Habibur after he was left for dead in a mustard field. It was Indian television channel NDTV which first broke the news of the barbaric act.

    These are telltale signs that Indians are lucky to have achieved a certain amount of balance when the state can’t avoid responsibility for what happens on its border. But that is all the more reason to ask why Indian border guards should be inordinately ruthless. Last week the Indian smugglers abducted a BGB member subsequently returned by BSF, which was a disturbing sign of sordid connections between the law and the outlaw.

    India should know that BSF is destroying more bridges in the hearts of Bangladeshi people than Delhi hopes to build and repair.


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