November 10, 2007

BSF Chief Says Odhikar "Run by Former Bangladeshi Military Men"

This is basically a continuation of the last post, but I decided that this needed a headline of its own. Googling up "BSF"+"kills"+"Bangladeshis" gives one some interesting results, including this particular news item filed by IANS, which anyone can confirm by going to the IANS website which needs a subscription to see the entire news item.

So having got all that out of the way, let me get to the meat of the story. Anyone remember the BDR-BSF meeting in Dhaka last week? Well, the BSF chief, Director General A.K. Mitra, went back home and promptly shot this off at the Bangladeshi human rights organization "Adhikar" (sic: Odhikar) which claimed that 97 innocent Bangladeshis had been killed just this year alone:

Adhikar has emerged as an anti-Indian set-up which is run by former Bangladeshi military men. I admit there are incidents of firing at the border but all these allegations of Adhikar are not true

Really? Really?

Then one has to ask why Odhikar is busy investigating human rights abuses by "Bangladeshi military men". Now I don't know the background of the people in charge of Odhikar, but one simply has to ask this: has Odhikar shown the Bangladeshi military any favours? Given that they have investigated the Cholesh Ritchil case when almost no one else did, the answer is resoundingly "No!". I don't think A.K. Mitra is listening.

One suspects yet another government official affected by the "all NGOs are foreign government agents until proven otherwise" syndrome. By no means is this disease unique to Bangladesh as previously thought.

A.K. Mitra also claimed that the death toll was 47 and not 97. If it weren't so tragic, that could have been a punch line to some sort of joke. "No, no. I did not steal kombols from the flood relief committee. I was busy stealing the dheu tins. My accusers are liars!"

My 4-year old niece makes better excuses.

This is not the first time Odhikar has issued a report critical of the BSF's idiocy. Predictably it led to puerile reactions from the right-wing of the Indian blogosphere citing "illegal immigration" worries. Puerile because it actually calls out Odhikar's editing instead of its claims (grade 1 or kindergarden technique?). Puerile because the attitude seems to be: let's kill these "Bangla" immigrants instead of dealing with them legally and deporting them. So much for the world's biggest "democracy"!

I am not holding my breath for a reaction and rebuttal from the Bangladeshi government. Governments that silence their own citizen-dissidents have very little to say when those citizens criticise foreign governments. Don't hold your breath, Odhikar has to deal with this itself.

Lastly, I have one small question to ask. I have a few regular readers who keeps citing "respect" and "reputation" as determining factors for whom to believe in situations like these: in their eyes, "respect" and "reputation" are greater in the realm of military people than those who work for "NGOs". Are you doing the same in this instance as well? If "no", please tell me why. If "yes", please explain to me how this is not yet another way for an Indian to discredit a Bangladeshi organization critical of Indian actions. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify and establish a fact

These are the people behind Odhikar and none of them, to my knowledge, are 'former' members of the army.

Having known some of the people involved in Odhikar personally, I have to argue that it is VERY UNLIKELY if not IMPROBABLE that they are looking after 'army' interests!

DhakaShohor said...


I checked that link. Obviously I don't know who exactly is a "former" armed forces member or not. Maybe Mitra has better info which he will no doubt keep secret for "national security" reasons. Been there, seen that.

I know from their work that they are doing not an "anti-India" propaganda arm of the Bangladeshi military as is being alleged.

If you know people at Odhikar who might be interested in responding to these ludicrously childish attacks on their neutrality, feel free to forward them these stories.

DhakaShohor said...

correction: I know from their work that they are not an "anti-India" propaganda arm

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, as you correctly noted, they have to deal with it themselves and rather busy doing that right now. This unsubstantiated declaration by Mitra may be hurting Odhikar's relationships with other organizations and donors. I have however sent them a link to your blog. Though I doubt very much that you will get a response anytime soon.

DhakaShohor said...

Just to be clear: I'm not asking for clarifications. Odhikar's work itself is proof enough for me.

The clarification has to be made to everyone, including to BSF itself, asking for an explanation for this sort of unfounded accusations.

They do good work that no one else seems to do, including this one. Kudos to them.

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