Friday, 8 June 2012

INDIA: BSF bludgeoned a boy, then shoot him


Sanjit Mondal lives with his parents and two brothers. His father, Mr
Krishna Chandra Mondal, is a reputed school teacher at the nearby
Mahadebpur Sishu Siksha Kendra and owns a small piece of land which
Sanjit and his brother help till when not engaged in their regular
studies. This piece of land is situated at the Indo-Bangladesh border;
this exposes them and fellow villagers to frequent BSF atrocities. An
inquiry undertaken by MASUM reveals the following facts:

On 15 April 2011, Sanjit had been watering the field for kharif
cultivation in preparation for sowing jute. Six uniformed BSF jawans
from the Harudanga Mini Camp suddenly set upon him and began beating
him with the butts of their rifles. All six had been carrying firearms
at the time of the incident. Sanjit fell to the ground due to the
force of the sudden attack and bashing. The BSF personnel turned to
kicking his chest with boot-clad feet.

When Sanjit's family heard about the savage beating Sanjit was
enduring at the hands of the BSF personnel, his uncle, Mr Bisnupada
Mondal, Mr Bikash Mondal (son of Mr Binay Mondal), Mr Madhu Mondal and
other residents of Char Durgapur Village, Harudanga Post Office,
rushed to the spot and found Sanjit writhing in pain as the BSF jawans
continued their vicious attack. The witnesses protested the abuse and
requested that the BSF personnel leave off the beating, upon which the
personnel hurled humiliating verbal abuse at them. The BSF personnel
then made as if to leave the victim and moved a few yards off, but
then turned and fired upon Sanjit. Family members and eyewitnesses
believe this was intended to kill Sanjit.

The pellets pierced different parts of Sanjit's body and his head,
causing him to fall unconscious. The BSF jawans then left, believing
they had managed to kill him. The victim was them brought to
Godhanpara Block Primary Hospital and Domkal Sub-Divisional Hospital,
where the doctors initially refused treatment when they heard about
the involvement of the BSF in the boy's injuries. The family
desperately sought the help of a local medical practitioner who was
not properly qualified, but he failed to remove the pellets from
Sanjit's body. Later, the doctors at Domkal Sub-Divisional Hospital
managed to remove two of the pellets, but the rest remained in
Sanjit's body and he became very ill.

Fellow villagers came together to provide some financial help to the
family for Sanjit's treatment and he was sent to Calcutta Medical
College and Hospital in June 2011 for the removal of pellets from his
body. The doctors there recommended a major surgery which the family
was unable to afford, so the surgery was eventually not arranged for.

The two siblings of Sanjit had been severely tortured by BSF
personnel previously on 24 September 2009, also while they were at the
field. After that incident, Sanjit's father had made a complaint to
Raninagar Police Station, where Case No. 615/09 was registered but no
further action taken to investigate the violence. Such apathy by the
police to their plight frightened Sanjit and his family to the point
of being reluctant to make another complaint to the police against the
BSF. Instead, the family made a complaint to the police outpost at
Calcutta Medical College and Hospital on 2 June 2011. No inquiry was
made into the matter.

The father of the three child victims somehow plucked up enough
courage to submit a written complaint to the Superintendent of Police,
Murshidabad on 4 April 2012, almost a year after the incident. The BSF
had surprisingly not yet made a complaint against Sanjit, a devious
method so commonly observed in their method of pre-emptively covering
up their criminal acts of violence against their victims. Sanjit was
treated at MASUM's monthly medical camp, VIC-TREE, a project run by
the assistance of the United Nations Voluntary fund for Torture
Victims (UNVFVT), where his statement was recorded. This verbal
account can be accessed here
 (unfortunately, no English subtitles are yet available). Still no
investigation has been conducted to this day, and there is reason to
believe the perpetrators of this crime against Sanjit are still free
and in the same position of power to terrorise and injure others, as
well as to conduct retaliatory attacks against Sanjit, his family and
eyewitnesses for bringing the matter up with the police.

The BSF violated specific rules laid out in the 1973 Criminal
Procedure Code and constitutional rights of the individual to life and
liberty. The six BSF personnel who had lynched and attempted to murder
Sanjit demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law and for human
lives. The six BSF personnel acted with complete impunity and
unconscionable violence, exploiting the privilege of authority and
firearms. What was so frightening was the banality and thoughtlessness
of such abuse, both of that privilege and of the person.

The BSF personnel failed to report the incident to the police who had
legal jurisdiction over the area. The BSF also did not subsequently
make any complaint with the police against Sanjit, which is atypical
of the BSF in cases of extrajudicial killings by their personnel. As
such, it is unclear if there were grounds at all for the attack by the
BSF on a defenceless and hopelessly outnumbered minor.

The fact that the BSF had recently issued a statement claiming
increased self-restraint on the use of lethal weapons (lethal INSAS
AK47 rifles are standard issue) and attempts to minimise the loss of
human lives flies in the face of what has happened to Sanjit. In the
press release, it was also clear that the BSF Director General had
been referring to smugglers crossing the Indo-Bangladesh border, who
have committed "cognizable crimes" and were criminals "we want to
apprehend". Sanjit's only crime had only been watering his father's
field alone.

Sanjit is fortunate to escape with his life. In a far less fortunate
encounter with BSF jawans, 21-year-old Mr Babu Seikh (refer
), also from Murshidabad district in West Bengal, lost his life,
murdered by BSF who claim to "have no desire to kill anybody". Babu
left behind a teenage widow and eight-month-old daughter.

While the populace and other NGOs such as MASUM had welcomed such
statements by the BSF, the apparent deception, or at least the failure
to implement to use of non-lethal weapons, creates a sense of
bitterness and disillusionment amongst the people the Force is
designed to protect, and serves to erode the BSF's legitimacy. The
"rogue" character of these paramilitary forces further reflects badly
on the central government that continues to endorse, fund, and, at
least theoretically, lead it. For such a well-established force to
perpetrate such acts of cruelty is disgraceful. Such acts truly lower
the morale of other individuals within the force who try hard to
fulfil their proper duties in order to protect the very people their
comrades are hurting.

The above case highlights several systemic failures in the
administration of Murshidabad in West Bengal:

1. The lack of transparency and accountability in the operation of
the BSF, which breeds impunity and disregard for the law;

2. The hypocrisy with which the BSF approach the people by first
promising to exercise restraint and then being responsible for the
nefarious and senseless attack on Sanjit and attempt on his life;

3. The lack of enforcement and/or poor communication by India's
central government of basic protocol amongst paramilitary forces such
as the BSF;

4. The lamentable lack of complete responsiveness on the part of the
police and the medical fraternity to aggrieved locals either due to
cowardice, collusion with the BSF and/or an execrable apathy to the
plight of the victim and his family

International efforts such as VIC-TREE (by MASUM) and UN VFTV can
only accomplish so much. These efforts are palliative, not
preventative, in nature. Without state intervention or international
pressure, the people of Murshidabad, particularly the most vulnerable
– women, children, the elderly, widowed, illiterate, the poor and
religious minorities – face, for the foreseeable future, continued
abuse of their freedoms and physical person and no likelihood for
justice to be served to those acting with complete impunity.


The Border Security Act, 1968 and its Rules 1969, was intended to
regulate the conduct of the BSF. Section 41 (f) of the Act mandates
that a BSF officer who commits any offence against the property or
person of any inhabitant of, or resident in, the country in which he
is serving to be punished with seven years of imprisonment. The Indian
Penal Code of 1860 also provides punishment for voluntarily causing
hurt or injuries to a person. Section 326 of the Code prescribes
punishment by way of imprisonment for a term of ten years to a person
who voluntarily causes hurt by dangerous weapons or means. In
addition, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees protection of life
and personal liberty of every citizen. There is, however, an obvious
lack of discipline and commitment to duty, as well as a culture of
violence and impunity, within the BSF. This case once again
illustrates how the BSF operates, and is permitted to operate, with
impunity and in utter defiance of these three legal documents.

The AHRC has documented substantial number of BSF atrocities in India
over the years. AHRC and MASUM have reported in detail over 800 cases
of custodial violence committed by the BSF over the past eight years
and have called for action on the part of the Indian authorities. The
AHRC has noted the absolute impunity with which the BSF acts, a fact
evidenced by the lack of disciplinary action taken against their
criminal offences by the relevant BSF superiors and police personnel.
Critically, many of these cases reveal a troubling unresponsiveness,
and sometimes complicity, in parts of the legal system to patent
injustices committed against individuals by the BSF. Not only is the
legitimacy and integrity of the Indian justice system threatened, but
so is its border and national security.

Sanjit has, as a human being, a right to life, liberty and personal
security (Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6 (1),
7, 9 and 10). He had additional rights as a vulnerable minor to extra
protection by the state (India ratified the Convention on the Rights
of the Child in 1992). Sanjit further had a right to move freely
within the borders of his own country (UDHR Article 13(1)). The BSF
jawans who had so cruelly beaten Sanjit and his siblings obviously did
not perceive the boys as born free and equal to them in dignity and
rights (UDHR Article 1). The BSF jawans were also obviously lacking in
reason and conscience and had not acted towards the minors in a spirit
of brotherhood.

Instead, the BSF violate Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which
demands that no person be denied of his life except according to
procedure established by law, a transgression that should be swiftly
met with by the centre through punitive action against these rogue
actors. In states like Manipur other para-military units like the
Assam Rifles outrage the conscience of mankind with their blithely
committed atrocities and cower like criminals behind the patently
unjust and draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 passed 11
September 1958 by both houses of parliament in India, which accords
Armed Forces in "disturbed areas" the ability to act with complete
unaccountability. The forces are permitted to use force "as [the
officer] may consider necessary", to destroy any fortified position or
shelter likely to be used for training armed volunteers/gangs and to
arrest and search without warrant. These terms violate the letter and
spirit of international law, which demands the unconditional
protection of every human being's fundamental rights.

Even then the Act attempts, if weakly, to institute some safeguards
– the armed forces are compelled to work in cooperation with the
district administration and not as an independent body, for instance.
The Forces are required give "due warning" before firing (which they
rarely, if ever, give). Arrested persons are to be handed over to the
Officer-in-Charge of the nearest police station without delay. Yet
problems arise when the intent was never to arrest but to assault and
kill, when BSF personnel act irresponsibly and refuse to coordinate
with provincial authorities and behave, in essence, as an "independent
body" and law unto itself.

The BSF promise border security, self-restraint in the use of lethal
weapons, fewer unnecessary deaths – these are empty promises. The
organisation promises instead the gradual corruption of already weak
policing systems, increased lawlessness and an environment of palpable
fear that reeks of oppression, past feudalism and neo-colonial
structures in contemporary Indian society. The BSF beast is injustice
manifest that has firmly embedded itself in institutions originally
construed as bulwarks against such. It is a beast that ought to be
quickly rehabilitated – or permanently put down.

Kirity Roy
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
40A, Barabagan Lane (4th Floor)
Balaji Place
PIN- 712203
Tele-Fax - +91-33-26220843
Phone- +91-33-26220844 / 0845
e. mail :