Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) secretary Kirty Roy has petitioned the District Magidtrate Magistrate Cooch Behal district of West Bengal against the “illegitimate restrictionson” on the lives and livelihood of the villagers of Krishnapur Palpara village under Tufanganj – I Block and Tufanganj police station in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal by the Border Security Force personnel attached with Krishnapur Border Out Post under 62 Battalion BSF.
According to the memorandum, the population of Krishnapur Palpara village is around 5740, where almost 60 percent of the villagers belong from Hindu Scheduled Caste (Dalit) and 40 percent from minority Muslim (OBC) backgrounds. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. More than 950 acres of cultivable land in the village that belongs to the villagers is located outside the border fencing, which is heavily guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). The BSF regulates the ingress and egress of the villagers to their fields through the fencing gate no. 5 and 6 that are located about 300 meters to 400 meters from the International Border Pillar (IBP).
The fact-finding team of MASUM revealed that the agricultural land outside the fencing is very fertile and multiple crops can be cultivated throughout the year. The villagers are willing to cultivate jute, maize, chili and vegetables throughout the year to earn good profits from their yields. However, due to the whimsical restrictions imposed by the BSF, they are restricted to cultivate profitable crops like jute and maize. Even if they had planted vegetables and chili in the land across the fencing, due to the irregularity of opening the fencing gates, most of their crops were ruined incurring heavy financial loss.
About 500 families reside across the fencing and have their agricultural land there. Due to lack of proper irrigation facilities across the fencing, the villagers are not able to cultivate paddy in their fields as well. It has been found that the villagers for being restricted to cultivate jute and maize in their lands are incurring a financial loss of Rupees 60 to 90 thousand per acre of land in a year. This loss has been continuing since the past 5 years due to the illegitimate restrictions by the BSF. When they were asked why such a whimsical restriction, the BSF states that there are government rules by which jute and maize cultivation in the borders are restricted. However, they have failed to show such government rules when asked.
Not only in agriculture but restrictions are in place to hinder social practices as well. Due to no particular reason the BSF do not allow the villagers to perform the last rites of the Hindu population in a crematorium located across the fencing near the river banks, which has been used by the villagers for almost 200 years. Due to the restraint, the villagers have to walk for almost 5 kilometers to perform the last rites.
On January 11,.2023, the villagers went to the Block Development Officer of Tufanganj – I block with a written complaint on the issues of restriction on their lives and livelihood. But the BDO Tufanganj didn’t accept the complaint and said that he can’t do anything on the issues of the villagers. Later the villagers sent the complaint to the BDO via registered post on 27.01.2023, but action was taken on the issues.
The following are the names and details of few victim villagers:
Name of land owner
Paresh Chandra Barman
Bimal Chandra Barman
MASUM states that these whimsical actions and arbitrary restriction imposed by the Border Security Force personnel of Krishnapur Border Out post upon the villagers of Krishnapur Palpara is not only challenging their life and livelihood but also violating the Article 21 and Article 19 of the Constitution of India and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The plight of the villagers and denial of their proper livelihood practices is against the Articles 7 and 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as the goal number 8 and 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In all these international instruments, the Government of India is a party and has taken pledge to adhere with.
Under the circumstances, the organisation has requested the urgent intervention of the District Magistrate to fulfil the following demands:
The Border Security Force should be posted at the zero point and not inside the village.
BSF should be instructed to follow the law of the land and stop imposing their own made-up rules
· Disciplinary action should be taken against the BSF Company Commander of Krishnapur BSF BOP and all others for imposing illegal restrictions upon the villagers and harassing them
BSF should not restrict the life and livelihood of the villagers particularly of the farmers.
The villagers should be provided with agricultural support.
The farmers should be compensated for the financial loss due to the illegal restriction of the BSF attached with Krishnapur BOP.
Finally, the memorandum demands that the villagers of Krishnapur should be allowed to perform last rites at the designated crematorium without any restrictions.