‘Attack on federal structure’: West Bengal passes resolution against BSF jurisdiction extension

The West Bengal government on Tuesday passed a resolution against the Union government’s decision to extend the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction in the state.

 The resolution was passed with 112 MLAs voting in favour and 63 opposing it, reported PTI news agency.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on 11 October had announced that the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) would be extended up to a 50 km stretch from the International Border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. By virtue of this new order, BSF can now conduct search, seizure and arrest up to 50 km which was previously 15 km in the above-mentioned states.

West Bengal is the second state after Punjab to pass a resolution in the Assembly against the Union’s decision.

“We demand that this decision be withdrawn immediately as enhancing the area of jurisdiction of the BSF is a direct attack on the country’s federal structure,” West Bengal Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said while moving the resolution in the House.

BJP members in the assembly made chaos after Trinamool Congress legislator Udayan Guha accused BSF personnel of inappropriately touching women while searching them during border movement. Guha said that no matter how much the personnel chanted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, they were not patriotic.

“A child living in a border area can never be patriotic if he witnesses his mother being inappropriately touched under the garb of body search by the BSF,” PTI news agency Guha as saying.

BJP politician and Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said that Guha’s comments were unacceptable and demanded that the remark be expunged from the Assembly’s proceedings. However, Speaker Biman Banerjee did not expunge Guha’s comment.

“People are to be tortured”

Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had issued a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the withdrawal of the order, stating “The State Police is well equipped and is better placed than the BSF to promptly respond to any situation in the areas affected by the Notification.”

“In the garb of extending BSF jurisdiction, people are to be tortured,” she claimed.

The new notification justifies the paranoia among non-BJP ruled states considering the arbitrary inference of the Union government using national agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) or Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), National Investigation Agency (NIA) etc, to overrule the power of the states. 

Maktoob’s report dated 28 October on BSF jurisdiction extension in the state narrates the responses and concerns of political observers, rights activists and the common people in the state.

Speaking to Maktoob, Kirity Roy, head of MASUM and a civil rights activist said, “The populace residing in the border area is mainly Muslim OBC, Hindu Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, who have been tortured in the last 10 years by the hand of BSF”.

“Full jurisdiction over districts such as Malda and Murshidabad that predominantly has Muslim demography, put them under threat,” Dr Mohammad Reyaz, a political observer told Maktoob. “There also have been allegations against BSF officers in West Bengal getting bribed for cattle smuggling and arbitrarily firing at people trying to cross the border.”