Four years into the grusome killing of teenager Felani Khatun by the Indian Border Security Force along Bangladesh border, justice seekers are waiting to see a fair trial. Even though the self-confessed killer was acquitted last year, the BSF authorities were compelled to review the verdict in the face of massive outcry at home and abroad.
It is the first-ever trial taking place over killing along the purous border though the BSF is accused of killing over 1,200 in the last decade and has been killing, abducting and torturing Bangladesh nationals. Even yesterday a Bangladeshi was slaughtered by the BSF men.
Even though the border forces are entitled to arrest if anyone violates the international border laws, the BSF is outrageous to shoot in a premediated manner. No border in the world is this much dangerous, for the common people.
Ironically, the victims of BSF firing are either farmers, unarmed people or small cattle traders crossing the border. On the other hand, wanted terrors, gold and fake currency smugglers and insurgents easily pass the border without being shot.
It seems that the BSF members are not paid salaries and are asked to collect money from the criminals, and shoot at people who do not pay them bribes.
Since 2010, the BSF authorities have been claiming that they would introduce non-lethal weapons but to no avail.
Sad enough; the Bangladesh ministers also blame the countrymen for being shot at border. Both the government highups defend shooting along the border by claiming that they only retaliate — a proposition placed without any proof.
Earlier, the BSF authorities were forced to suspend eight jawans for torturing a cattle trader, only after a video clip on the matter was aired on NDTV — a top Indian news channel on January 18, 2012. The victim, Habibur Rahman, was later compensated. Of the eight suspended BSF members, one was later sentenced to 28 days in prison in a court martial, while another was downgraded to a lower post. The others were acquitted of the charges.
The BSF members in the last decade alone have shot dead over 1,200 Bangladeshis including cattle smugglers, farmers and innocent people along the border. The Indian force has also been accused of torture and abduction of Bangladesh nationals.
Here is a timeline of events regarding Felani murder and the much-talked-about trial:
January 7, 2011: Felani Khatun shot dead at Anantapur border point in Kurigram’s Phulbari upazila while she was trying to climb over the barbed wire fence. She was on her way to Bangladesh with her father from Delhi where she used to work as domestic help but they had no valid documents for the travel. The BSF fired at her when her clothes got entangled in the barbed wire. Her body was left there for several hours.
BSF probed the incident and found 181 Battalion Constable Amiya Ghosh responsible for the murder with his 5.56mm Insas rifle. Amiya also confessed to the crime. He was charged under Section 304 (unintentional killing) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 146 of the BSF Act.
August 13, 2013: A five-man BSF General Security Forces court headed by its Assam-Meghalaya frontier DIG (Communication) SP Trivedi starts trial. It is the first-ever trial in any killing along Bangladesh border by the BSF. Felani’s father M Nurul Islam and maternal uncle M Abdul Hanif testify.
September 6, 2013: The court finds Amiya not guilty because of “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him.
September 7, 2013: Law Minister Shafique Ahmed says aggrieved persons should appeal to the appropriate authorities if they considered that a judgement is not fair.
Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir says justice was not reflected in the judgement.
National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman says the judgment showed disrespect to the international laws.
In a clarification, the Indian High Commission said: “The trial of the case by a BSF Court of Inquiry was the first step of a quasi-judicial process. The due process of law, which has provision for appeal and review by the competent authority, will be followed. Justice will be delivered to those who are found guilty.”
September 9, 2013: Bangladesh Foreign Ministry formally expresses “utter frustration” to the Indian authorities over the verdict in Felani murder case.
September 11, 2013: Felani’s father sends e-letter to the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh, the West Bengal human rights organisation Manobadhikar Surokkha Moncho (MASUM) and Dhaka’s Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) seeking justice and compensation for her daughter’s killing.
September 12, 2013: Foreign Minister Dipu Moni says the government will appeal against the verdict if justice is not prevailed.
September 12, 2013: Facebook page Felani Road says the road from Shooting Club to Gulshan 1 will be called Felani Road. The Indian High Commission and the commissioner’s home are on that road.
September 13, 2013: In a statement, BSF says: “The competent authority of Border Security Force has decided to hold a revision trial in Ms Felani Khatun death case. The competent authority has not agreed with the findings of Court and has decided to hold revision trial in the instant case. The trial court found the accused Ct Amiya Ghosh ‘not guilty’ and pronounced findings on 06.09.2013. As per BSF Act and Rules, proceedings were reviewed by legal experts.”
September 27, 2013: Felani’s father and Salma Ali, executive director of Bangladesh Women Lawyers’ Association, file a petition seeking transparent trial and compensation.
September 22, 2014: BSF court starts retrial.
November 17, 2014: Felani’s father Nur Islam testifies.
November 22, 2014: Court adjourns trial for four months as the accused fell ill.
March 26, 2015: Case deferred until June 30 as the assistant public prosecutor was not present in the court.
June 30: Trial resumes with statement of Amiya Ghosh.
July 3: The BSF court acquits Amiya again for “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him.
July 3: BGB chief Maj Gen Aziz says he is shocked at the verdict, and assures to assist Felani’s family is they want to file a petition.
July 4: MASUM says they will file a petition challenging the acquittal.
July 7: Felani’s father give consent to filing of a writ petition by ASK with the help of MASUM.
July 13: Amnesty Indian files a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India, saying human rights were violated in the murder case and there is confusion surrounding the trial process.
July 21: India’s Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dutta holds the first hearing on a petition filed on September 27, 2013 by Felani’s father and Salma Ali. A supplementary petition has been filed to give the family compensation for an interim period.
August 6, 2015: BSF chief DK Pathak says they will consider holding a fresh trial in Felani Khatun murder case in a new bench.
August 14, 2015: Indian Supreme Court accepted the other petition, jointly filed by Felani’s father Nurul Islam and Kolkata-based human rights organisation Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), that challenged the earlier acquittal of the BSF jawan. The court also issued a rule upon four top Indian officials – the federal home secretary, West Bengal chief secretary, BSF director general and chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation – asking why they had not registered a case over the murder and why compensation would not be given to the victim’s family.
August 31, 2015: India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) recommends a compensation of 5 lakh rupees it wants the Home Ministry to pay to the family of Felani.
May 16, 2016: The chiefs of BSF and BGB refuse to make comment on the fresh trial in a new bench after the DG-level conference in Dhaka.