Published: Sunday, September 8, 2013

Quick Comment

Then who killed Felani?

Felani has been killed twice. The first time was in the early hours of January 7, 2011, by bullets fired from BSF rifles, and her lifeless body left to hang on the barbed wire fence that cordons the territory of India from that of Bangladesh. It was sometime before her dead body was removed from that state and eventually handed over to the BGB. That sordid and gruesome picture continues to ruffle the collective conscience of the people of Bangladesh, except perhaps those who explain away such killings as normal happenings on the border. There was widespread condemnation by Indian human rights groups too to bring the killer/s to justice.
The second time she was killed was on September 6, 2013. This time not by the bullet of a trigger happy BSF soldier but by the verdict of the special court, set up by the BSF to try the lone accused charged with the killing. This verdict perhaps will continue to hurt our conscience even more and for even longer.
The said special court passed the verdict on September 6, setting scot-free the accused. Constable Amiya Ghosh, the only accused in the killing, could not be found guilty because of “inconclusive and insufficient” evidence against him.
Admittedly, not all judgments reflect the wisdom of the court. And the judge has to deliver his verdict based on the evidences, material and circumstantial, produced before the court. We wonder if everything was done to serve the cause of justice by those who brought the alleged killer to trial.
Let us revisit the facts.
First, Felani was shot and killed by some person/s of BSF’s Choudhuryhat camp while trying to cross the barbed-wire fencing at Anantapur border point in Kurigram’s Phulbarhi Upazila, in to Bangladesh.
Second, India had expressed regret at the killing of Felani. And this was done at no less a forum than the two-day Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting between the home secretaries of the two countries in Dhaka on January 19, 2011. This statement is an acknowledgement of the crime perpetrated by the BSF soldier/s of that particular camp.
Third, it was the Indian authorities who started the trial on August 13 following widespread demands to bring to book the person responsible for the killing.
So why, may we ask, was there no credible evidence? After all, a minor girl was killed in broad daylight near a BSF camp. And the only people wielding weapons were the soldiers of the BSF camp. Whose job was it to produce the ‘credible’ and ‘conclusive’ evidence to see that justice was done?
And what will be upshot of all this? Felani’s family will continue to bleed at the verdict, which admittedly, has not surprised many in Bangladesh; BSF will take cue from the impunity; and our leaders will rue the fact that the optimism they had expressed regarding justice for Felani was premature and misplaced.

The writer is Editor, OP-Ed & Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star.