The Trinamool Congress has decided to raise strong objection to the extension of the Border Security Force’s (BSF) operational jurisdiction in the Winter session of Parliament, as the issue has become a new flashpoint between the West Bengal government and the Centre.
The Union Home Ministry in a recent order increased the power of the BSF to operate up to 50 kilometre inside the international border from the existing 15 kilometre in the three border states of Assam, West Bengal and Punjab.
The same order also curtailed the BSF’s jurisdiction to 50 kilometre from 80 kilometre in Tripura and Gujarat.
The two non-BJP states of West Bengal and Punjab see a political motive behind the move which will allow the BSF to conduct search and arrests deep inside the state’s territory with the purpose of protecting India’s international borders from illegal encroachments and cross-border crimes.
“It interferes with the police’s responsibility of maintaining law and order in the state and also violates the federal structure of our country,” TMC Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said, adding that the party, according to instructions from chief Mamata Banerjee, would raise the issue in both houses of Parliament in the Winter session commencing from November 29.
TMC MPs were at the forefront in creating a furore over the Pegasus snooping scandal that led to disruptions and logjams in parliamentary proceedings during the Monsoon session in July-August.
During the session, six TMC Rajya Sabha MPs were even suspended for entering the well of the house, displaying placards and disobeying the Chair over the Pegasus issue.
The party is planning similar strong protests in Parliament over the matter of BSF jurisdiction, TMC sources said. It has already initiated discussions with leaders of other political parties to launch a “combined assault” on the government on the issue.
Bandyopadhyay reportedly discussed the issue with former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah in New Delhi on Friday.
The TMC’s floor strategy in Parliament will be in sync with the strong objection raised by the party’s government in West Bengal to the Centre’s move.
The state government on Friday decided to bring a resolution in the Assembly against the extension of the BSF’s jurisdiction on November 16, taking a cue from the Congress government in Punjab.
The Punjab Assembly on Thursday adopted an official resolution seeking the withdrawal of the Centre’s directive, terming it an attack on the federal structure and an insult to the state police.
West Bengal parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee said the resolution would be moved to register the state government’s protest to the “alarming” decision.
Mamata Banerjee had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the home ministry’s BSF notification to uphold the federal structure of the Constitution.
The state government is apprehensive that the decision taken without consulting the states might lead to arbitrary use of powers by the BSF, which has often been dubbed a trigger-happy force.
Two suspected Bangladeshi cattle smugglers and an Indian died in firing by the BSF near the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on Friday (November 12), the day the state government decided to move the resolution against the directive to increase the border force’s operational jurisdiction.
The firing incident has further endorsed the suspicion that the directive would increase human rights violations. More so as this is the third major firing incident involving the BSF in the state this year.
Two persons suffered bullet injuries in the state’s Malda on June 24 while another 18-year-old boy was killed in Nadia district on July 17 in BSF firing. The paramilitary forces alleged that the victims were smugglers.
“We have seen how people living within 15km of the border face inconveniences due to the BSF’s high-handedness. The enhancement of BSF’s jurisdiction will only add to the trouble,” said TMC MLA Udayan Guha.
He has reason to be apprehensive as the directive brings nearly one-third of West Bengal, which shares international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal, under BSF purview.