BSF A By-Poll Issue In Bengal

Border Security Force
Border Security Force (File Image)

It is not usual that the Border Security Force (BSF) will creep in political debate. But it is an unusual time in Bengal. From the probe against ex-chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay for undermining the Prime Minister’s meeting to CBI probe in post-poll violence (along with cow smuggling and coal scam), the ruling party in Bengal eyes every move of the centre with suspicion. So, when the jurisdiction of the BSF was extended from 15 to 50 kilometres from the international border, Bengal cried hoarse along with Punjab, another opposition-ruled state.

Now the BSF is compared with Gabbar Singh by top TMC leaders like Fihad Hakim in election campaign. By-polls in four assembly constituencies Dinhata, Shantipur, Khardaha and Gosaba) will be held on 30th of this month, and just after the puja the campaign has started for these constituencies. Firhad Hakim, while campaigning for TMC candidate in Dinhata of Cooch Behar district in northernmost Bengal, said, “Now they have called the BSF. It is like the mothers saying their children to fell asleep, otherwise Gabbar aa jayega.” Then he brought in ‘pachas pachas kosh’ distance mentioned in Sholey by Gabbar Singh himself to create an aura of his power, and said, “BSF will now come up to fifty kilometres to harass the villagers.”

It is being assumed that even BSF patrolling a distance of fifty kilometres will dampen the spirit of the TMC workers as it symbolises the might of the centre. However, it is not likely that BSF will go for regular patrolling up to that distance. Now, even when it has jurisdiction up to 15 kilometres, it hardly comes beyond a kilometre of the border. And its jurisdiction is limited to border related crimes like smuggling or violation of Passport Act. Again, it cannot prosecute, and has to hand over the arrested persons to the state police or Customs.

But that does not stop the TMC to use the issue politically. It wants to show the BSF as the villain of peace and itself as the saviour to all TMC supporters in general, and particularly to the minority community which has voted en bloc for it in the last assembly election. And Dinhata is in the same Cooch Behar constituency where the paramilitary forces opened fire at Sitalkuchi during the assembly elections. Four persons died in that incident, all belonging to the minority community. So, it is only natural that the TMC will try to consolidate the minority vote-bank by using the BSF.

(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)

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