Border killings: Govinda a martyr, Felani a memory

Border killings: Govinda a martyr, Felani a memory

SAM Staff,

When 15-year-old Felani was caught in the barbs of the border fence between India and Bangladesh, Indian Border Security Force (BSF) guards opened fire and shot her dead. She had simply been returning home with her father Nurul Islam when the bullet ended her life. The picture of the young Bangladeshi girl’s dead body, tragically draped over the barbed wire fencing, spread like wildfire in the national and international media.

Felani was killed on 7 January 2011. Six years on and she is still alive in the memories of the people, but that is about it.

In face of a volley of protests at the time, a special court had been set up by BSF but it acquitted the accused Amiya Ghosh of the charges of killing Felani Khatun at the Cooch Behar border. There was supposedly “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him. Felani’s father M Nurul Islam and her uncle had testified in the court. Lt Col Ziaul Haque Khaled of 45 Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) battalion and Kurigram public prosecutor Abraham Lincoln accompanied them. The killings continue.

In Nepal

On 9 March this year, Govinda Gautam of Nepal was shot dead by Indian border security personnel in Punarbas of Kanchanpur.

The government of Nepal has declared Govinda Gautam a martyr.

The government would provide Rs 1 million compensation to the victim’s family. His final rites would be held with due respect and his children’s education would be sponsored by the state.

Condemning the incident, the Deputy Prime Minister said the government had already clarified its opinion about the incident. He said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had telephoned PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal and expressed Modi’s sadness over the incident.

Contrastingly, in Bangladesh where innocent citizens are regularly shot dead along the border by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), the government remains mute. Perfunctory protests are occasionally made at flag meetings between the border forces of the two countries, but the killings do not abate.

In 2013, a total of 29 Bangladeshis were killed by BSF personnel along the border. In 2014 this went up to 35 and in 2015 to 44. In 2016 the number of these killings was 29. So, in the first two months of 2017, four have been killed.

The Nepalese government’s response to Govinda Gautam’s killing has provoked thought among the people of Bangladesh as to why Felani should not also be declared a martyr. Her martyrdom would highlight the atrocities along the border and perhaps act as a deterrent to further such killings.