1. The present state system in South Asia, in particular the state system of the sub-continent, is a result largely of the partitions in the eastern and western parts of the erstwhile united India, giving birth to three states – India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The borders dividing these countries are markers of past bitter history, current separate, distinct, and independent existence, and the sign of the territorial integrity of these states. The bitterness of the past, the lack of mutual confidence at present, the security concerns of all these states, at the same time the existence of thousand and one linkages make the South Asian borders are unique. They are the lines of hatred, disunity, informal connections and voluminous informal trade, securitised and militarized lines, heavy para-military presence, communal discord, humanitarian crisis, human rights abuses, and enormous suspicion, yet informal cooperation.
2. While the Indo-Pakistan border (including the Line of Control) is in the eye of world attention, therefore closely monitored, the border in the East – Indo-Bangladesh border – remains neglected in terms of attention. Security concerns overwhelm all other equally legitimate concerns and values. Military security dominates over human security in the border region. As a result of this, States often forget that borders are not only lines to be guarded, they are also lines of humanitarian management, because borders are not lines but borderlands – that is to say these are areas where people live, pursue economic activities, and lead civilian lives attuned to the realities of the borders. Human security in the borderlands would mean first security of the civilian population along the borderlines.
3. In this respect, CRG would organize a one day workshop to analyze the humanitarian situation on the Indo-Bangladesh border keeping importance of research, legal analysis and advice, advocacy, capacity building, media awareness, network building. The proposed workshop will highlight on some of the aspects given below:
(a) Many immigrants are prima facie accused of illegal entry and do not get due recourse to law;
(b) The border security forces on both sides engage in forcible push-backs – extreme harsh methods of deportation resulting in loss of limbs, lives, money, and dignity;
(c) The daily economic activities of segments of population like fishermen fishing in river-borders are hampered greatly resulting in sustained distress;
(d) Long and undue detention at jails and sub-jails;
(e) Rampant sexual abuses, and killings in no man’s land by border guards;
(f) Undue harassment of immigrants on the suspicion of being terrorists;
(g) Extortion of money of the ordinary people allegedly working as part of smuggling;
(h) Distress of inhabitants of border enclaves;
(i) Boundaries running through villages and consequent harassment of villagers;
(j) Fencing and electrifying the fence with high voltage;
(k) Forcibly stranded people on the no-man’s land as security forces on both sides refuse to accept them;
(l) Communalisation of border villages and subsequent killings of apprehended immigrants;
(m) Shifting river-borders
(n) Different types of boundaries in different sectors (river, village, train line, no natural demarcation, hills, etc.
(o) Existence of stateless population
(p) Widespread trafficking in labour, sex, animals, and goods
4. It will be thus a policy formulation exercise on the basis of a wide ranging dialogue. With this aim the workshop will seek to inquire into the entire situation of border violence on the basis of three studies. These three studies will be on:
(a) Border violence and civilian life around West Bengal Bangladesh Border.
(b) People in Indo-Bangladesh Enclaves - Vulnerability, Security of Life, Rights, and Justice,
(c) Bangladeshi Inmates in Correctional Homes with Special Reference to Women.
5. The drafts of these studies will be discussed in the one day workshop, which will intend to:
(a) Trace the historical perspective of the current situation;
(b) Take note of the geo-political segments of the border (North Bengal, South Bengal, enclaves etc.);
(c) Analyze the situation of women in prisons;
(d) Realities of push-back;
(f) Policy suggestions.
First Floor, Salt Lake, Sector III, Kolkata-700 106