Uproar in West Bengal against the extension of the BSF’s jurisdiction


A recent notification from the Union Home Office extending the territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) from 15 kilometers to 50 km from the international border in West Bengal (and some other states) sparked a political outcry in the state. Not only did the State Assembly pass a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the notification, but all non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parties, including the ruling Trinamool Congress, left-wing parties and Congress, have strongly condemned the decision of the Center.

The BJP, on the other hand, welcomed the notification, prompting a new round of wrangling between the state’s two main political opponents: the Trinamool and the BJP. Of the 4,142 km of border that India shares with Bangladesh, West Bengal alone represents 2,217 km.

On October 11, the Center issued three separate notifications under the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973), Passport Act (entry into India) (1920) and Passport Act (1967), extending jurisdiction from BSF to West Bengal, Assam and Punjab up to 50 km from the international border of the existing 15 km. In the case of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, and Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the jurisdiction of the BSF will cover the entire territory of the State or the Union.

Non-BJP parties said the notifications violated basic principles of federalism and yet another example of the Center’s blatant interference in the functioning of state governments.

Resolution

On November 16, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a resolution under Rule 169, demanding the withdrawal of the Center’s notification. The resolution, proposed by Partha Chatterjee, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, stated: “This Assembly considers that in the context of public order, which is the responsibility of the state government, the increase in the competence of the BSF goes to the goes against the principles of federalism and is not the scope of the BSF law. This House believes that the notification will hamper cooperation between the state police and the BSF, and that the BSF will encroach on the authority of the state police.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee even personally urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the notification when she met him in New Delhi on November 24. She told the media that during her meeting with Modi, she said that the federal structure is very important in our country and “we have to keep it strong”.

She added: “Giving more powers to the BSF leads to a confrontation with the public order of the State…. A few days ago, three poor people died in BSF gunfire in the Cooch Behar district. Earlier too there were a lot of deaths [as a result of BSF firing] in Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Cooch Behar and Uttar 24 Parganas…. We are ready to provide whatever support the BSF needs, but the country’s federal structure must not be unnecessarily disrupted. “

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Non-BJP opposition parties in West Bengal have also expressed concern over the Centre’s decision. Before the resolution was passed in the Assembly, the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress wrote to Mamata Banerjee asking her to raise the issue with the Center. In a letter to the Chief Minister, the Left Front Committee stressed that the usual procedure for the Center is to consult the government of the state concerned before making such decisions. He said: “The Center cannot ignore federal provisions in this way.”

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, head of the Lok Sabha Congress and chairman of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee, drew Mamata Banerjee’s attention to the Punjab Assembly, which had already passed a resolution against the Center’s decision. In a letter to Mamata Banerjee, he said: “I ask you to pass a resolution in the West Bengal Assembly against this decision of the Center, as was done in the Punjab Assembly. This will be a strong message from the people of West Bengal to the Center …. ”While moving the resolution, Partha Chatterjee said:“ The BSF will control 32,400 km² of the 88,752 km² of West Bengal. It’s a ploy to usurp power through the back door.

The BJP, on the other hand, not only welcomed the Centre’s decision, but also suggested that the jurisdiction of the BSF be extended up to 80 km from the international border.

Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP, who is the leader of the opposition in the assembly, alleged that terrorist organizations were on the rise throughout the state. After the resolution was passed, a bitter war of words ensued between Trinamool and BJP members when Udayan Guha, the Trinamool lawmaker representing Cooch Behar, accused the OSB of physical harassment of women.

Guha said, “BSF staff inappropriately touch women under the pretext of conducting searches. A child who watches his mother suffer cannot grow up to be a patriot, no matter how strident your slogan “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is. This sparked angry reactions from BJP MPs.

Partha Chatterjee pointed out that the allegation was not against the entire BSF, but nonetheless there were allegations against force from different parts of the state. He said, “Our point is this: When he failed when his jurisdiction was within 15 km, how can he succeed when the jurisdiction is 50 km away? Illegal activities are expected to take place within 15 km of the border itself. It is nothing more than an attack on the rights of the state and the work of the state police. It is an attempt to destroy the federal fabric of the nation so that the Center can find its way into the state. “

The protest also found echoes in intellectual circles across the state. Famous filmmaker Aparna Sen said: “A process of militarization is underway. The Union government is increasing the strength of the BSF, as if that weren’t enough… those who kill and rape.

BJP leader Anirban Ganguly responded by sending him a legal opinion. He said on Twitter: “I sent a notice through my lawyer to Aparna Sen asking her to issue an unconditional apology for calling the BSF a force that engages in ‘rape’ and ‘murder’. Her behavior is heinous, poisonous, vicious and disgusting She speaks the language of the enemies of India.

The OSB has denied the harassment allegations made by representatives of Trinamool and tried to allay fears of interference in state affairs.

BSF response

Speaking to the media a day after the resolution was passed in the assembly, YB Khurania, additional director general of the BSF (Eastern Command), said: now the jurisdiction has been extended to 50 km. I would like to point out that the OSB has no investigative powers. We do not have the authority to register FIR [first information report]. Whatever search, seizure or arrest we carry out is handed over to the law enforcement authorities concerned, including the state police.

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He added: “Even after the notifications, the situation remains the same; only the area has been extended from 15 km to 50 km…. The notifications do not confer any additional power on the BSF, so the apprehension as reported in some media is unfounded. We will continue to operate in full synergy with the state police and other law enforcement agencies. “

Khurania argued that the BSF has a “very comfortable relationship” with state police and other law enforcement agencies at all levels. He said: “From time to time we interact and share intelligence and information; sometimes we also have joint operations at the border and in the hinterland.

He denied the allegation that BSF jawans “inappropriately touched women”, saying, “We have about 4,000 women deployed in Eastern Command…. In a number of places CCTV cameras have been installed and we are in the process of installing CCTV cameras. in all points. It is unfortunate that such allegations are made.


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