A political row erupted in West Bengal after the Centre decided to extend the area under the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in three state’s – West Bengal, Punjab and Assam.
While the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the state hit out at the Centre on Thursday alleging that it is an infringement on the state land through back doors, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders welcomed the move saying that BSF should be given more powers. The Congress echoed TMC’s stance.
“This is a condemnable decision. This is infringing upon the state’s land through the back door. The party is seriously looking into this,” said Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson and the party’s state general secretary.
On Monday, the Union government amended the BSF Act to authorise the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a larger 50 km stretch, instead of the existing 15 km, from the International Border (IB) in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
Among all states, West Bengal has the longest and one of the most porous international borders. The state shares a 2216-km-long international border with Bangladesh. It also shares around a 100-km border with Nepal and a 183 km border with Bhutan.
“The expansion of #BSF area of jurisdiction up to 50 km from border of some states amounts to brazen infringement upon the territory of states. @HMOIndia, you should not indulge any ‘Chherkhani’ else will face the consequences,” tweeted Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha.
The Indo-Bangladesh border, particularly in West Bengal, is also one of the most porous borders. Data placed by the Union ministry of home affairs before the parliament in March 2020 shows that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, security agencies arrested 1175, 1118 and 1351 people along the entire stretch of the Indo-Bangla border in India.
“We welcome this decision. But just giving more jurisdictions to the BSF won’t help. The BSF cannot arrest anyone independently. Whenever a smuggler, trafficker or terrorist is held, they need to be handed over to the local police. The BSF should be given more teeth so that they can work independently and also should be given more manpower,” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson in West Bengal.
In Gujarat, which shares a border with Pakistan, the same limit was reduced from 80 km to 50 km, and in Rajasthan, it was kept unchanged at 50 km.
“This is simply infringing upon the sovereign rights of the state. There are allegations of links between BSF and smugglers. To let them increase their area of operation would be suicidal. The state should oppose this,” said Saugata Roy, TMC MP.
In Bengal, some BSF officers are under the scanner of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a 2020 transborder cattle smuggling case. Senior BSF officials refused to comment on the developments and the political row that followed.
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