Row over BSF’s mobile check posts in Meghalaya escalates | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Row over BSF’s mobile check posts in Meghalaya escalates

ByDavid Laitphlang
May 01, 2024 11:03 PM IST

Among the key checkposts are Sonapur under the Lumshnong and Rattachera police stations, and the Hungaria loading point under the Umkiang police station

Simmering discontent among civilians over Border Security Force’s (BSF) mobile check posts (MCPs) in Meghalaya's East Jaiñtia Hills district has intensified after an incident on April 21 when three local youths were allegedly assaulted by the paramilitary force’s personnel in Sonapyrdi village.

Aerial view of the mobile check post in Sonapur(David Laitphlang ) PREMIUM
Aerial view of the mobile check post in Sonapur(David Laitphlang )

The influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU/East Jaiñtia Hills unit) filed an FIR against BSF after the incident.

In a counter FIR, the BSF claimed that the three persons involved in the incident were suspected smugglers who resisted arrest when stopped at checkposts.

East Jaiñtia Hills deputy commissioner, Abhilash Baranwal, said an enquiry into the incident is ongoing.

“But we are continuing with the inquiry and will take it to its logical conclusion,” Baranwal said over the phone from Khliehriat, the district headquarters. He added that such incidents frequently occur and that “the district administration has received several such complaints on several occasions”.

Problems and perceptions

A local journalist, Hun T Lyngdoh, said the local population is unhappy with the MCPs and would prefer their removal.

Hun T Lyngdoh said, “People feel unsafe with the BSF presence. There are regular complaints of unannounced BSF entries into villages and passage without informing village authorities.” While acknowledging the BSF's anti-smuggling mission, she criticised their approach. “The absence of dialogue between BSF officers and villagers is not helping at all. In fact, the villagers long for peace and I believe a collective approach to address their concerns will help greatly.”

Baranwal explained that the BSF is authorised to enter up to 50 metres into the hinterland to maintain law and order and secure the international frontier against smugglers, criminals, and insurgents. He acknowledged accusations of “highhandedness” but defended the BSF, saying “Their actions target smugglers of various scales and are necessary under the law to achieve positive results”.

Explaining the challenge of assessing the effectiveness of MCPs due to a lack of data, Baranwal said authorities are committed to resolving the issue with KSU by engaging citizens and stakeholders. He said: “We are more than willing to convene discussions with the BSF and local leaders to find a middle ground that promotes lasting peace and economic growth in the area.”

Locations

Harbax Singh Dhillon, BSF inspector general in the state, said the force adopted a proactive strategy to combat illegal activities and smuggling with specific placement of MCPs.

Among the key MCPs are Sonapur under Lumshnong and Rattachera police stations, and the Hungaria loading point under the Umkiang police station, which are located in East Jaiñtia Hills. The Sonapur MCP, in particular, has significantly reduced smuggling activities, addressing concerns over illegal transportation of various goods from the Silchar side of Assam towards the international border, he said.

An MCP commander, who spoke to HT requesting anonymity, highlighted the impact of the MCPs in curbing illegal activities. “While the exact amount of contraband that slipped through before the establishment of the MCPs is unknown, significant quantities of commodities like cattle, sugar, and areca nuts have been seized since,” the officer said.

Emphasising the role of joint operations with the Meghalaya police after credible intelligence is gathered, the officer explained their effectiveness in disrupting illegal activities. “The overall impact of MCPs is significant, although difficult to quantify, suggesting that individuals involved in illegal activities may have altered their methods in response to increased security measures.”

Elaborating on the MCP commander's remarks, Dhillon claimed local residents support the Sonapur MCP since it was established despite opposition from certain segments likely engaged in illegal activities.

“BSF Meghalaya has achieved notable seizures at the Sonapur MCP, including approximately 4900 cattle, 31,600 kg of areca nut, 99,000 kg of sugar, and 134 vehicles,” he said, adding: “These actions have been praised by individuals from diverse sectors, including leaders and civil administration, for their direct impact on the local economy and prevention of resource exploitation.”

Dhillon said: “The BSF recognises smuggling as a significant issue, especially the clandestine transportation of commodities like sugar, onions, and cattle. We are alarmed by the growing involvement of individuals in smuggling and are actively addressing this concern”.

Challenges remain, he said. For example, smugglers and truck drivers carrying illegal consignments often confront troops on duty. Some locals and pressure groups spread false allegations, creating hindrances in BSF’s mandated duty, he said.

When asked about how the BSF is addressing these challenges, Dhillon said: “The BSF adapts its tactics to combat the smart and cunning smugglers, with the MCPs playing a crucial role. Despite facing opposition, the MCP has proven effective in bringing order to the area and is appreciated by law-abiding citizens.”

Dhillon said the BSF's primary focus in Meghalaya Frontier is safeguarding the local economy and securing the youth's future by preventing smuggling and maintaining order.

“The BSF Meghalaya Frontier is dedicated to securing the country's international borders despite facing challenges such as dense forests, rivers, and language barriers with the local population. Despite these obstacles, the BSF remains steadfast in its duty to protect the nation, its land, people and resources,” the IG said.

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