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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Bengal police version nails BSF, NHRC orders compensation to family of youth killed

NHRC ordered compensation of Rs 5 lakh.

kolkata Updated: Dec 08, 2017 14:28 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
File picture of the Changrabandha border between India and Bangladesh in Mekhliganj Block in Cooch Behar district of Bengal.
File picture of the Changrabandha border between India and Bangladesh in Mekhliganj Block in Cooch Behar district of Bengal.(Samir Jana)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended that the ministry of home affairs should compensate the next of kin of Sohag Sahjee, a 23-year-old who was killed by BSF personnel on February 22, 2014, within the jurisdiction of Swarupnagar police station, North 24-Parganas district of West Bengal.

While BSF denied the charge during the hearing at NHRC, the Bengal police’s report submitted before the NHRC accused two BSF personnel of pelting stones at the accused, who, drowned in the Sonai river trying to flee.

Read: BSF launches computer-assisted test to examine psychological health of personnel

The river acts as a physical border between India and Bangladesh.

“The human rights of the deceased Sohag Sahjee, have been prima facie, found to have been violated at the hands of the BSF personnel for which the State is vicariously liable to compensate the NoK of the deceased. The Commission, therefore, recommends to the Government of India through the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, to pay a sum of Rs 5 lakhs to the Nok of the deceased Sohag Sahjee. The action taken on the recommendation shall be submitted within three months,” the commission ordered on October 12.

“BSF’s internal probe is still on. Whether we’ll be moving supreme court against the NHRC verdict will be decided by higher authorities,” Naveen Chauhan, BSF spokesperson in Bengal, told HT.

Read: Singed by BSF fire, Pak Rangers commit to uphold ceasefire along border in J&K

Killings by BSF personnel in West Bengal is often raised by the state’s human rights activists. However, orders for compensation are rare. According to rights activists, more than 1,000 cases killings by BSF personnel have been reported from Bengal between 2003 and 2017, of which compensation was awarded in only 14 cases.

“State police report contradicting the version of BSF is rare indeed. In this case, the Bengal police version helped us to some extent in getting justice,” said Kirity Roy of rights organisation Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), who approached NHRC following Sahjee’s death.

During the hearing BSF claimed Sahjee was part of a group of four smugglers who were trying to escape to Bangladesh by a boat on the Sonai river. While three others managed to escape Sahjee drowned in the river unable to manage the weight he was carrying.

Read: Bangladesh’s terror elements cross over to Bengal for safety

The report submitted by the superintendent of police, North 24 Parganas, however, said that an inquiry by sub-divisional police officer, Basirhat, revealed that two BSF personnel pelted stones at the victim when he was bathing in the river, and that the personnel also prevented the victim’s uncle from saving him.

The post-mortem report, too, confirmed injuries before death due to drowning.

“In this case the police investigation in FIR No. 133/14 has found involvement of two BSF personnel and charge sheet has been filed against them. As such the test of preponderance of the probability is more than satisfied in this case. The Commission does not consider it necessary to await the outcome of the trial under the BSF Act,” reads the NHRC order on Sahjee.

Should the Government of India refuse to abide by the recommendations, the complainants will have to approach the Supreme Court.

In 2015, NHRC had ordered ministry of home affairs to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the family of Felani Khatun, 15, a Bangladeshi girl. The image of her body hanging from a wired fencing in 2011 created a huge uproar across the country.

The BSF court enquiry, however, acquitted accused BSF personnel even after re-trial. After MHA refused to pay compensation, MASUM approached the Supreme Court and the verdict is still pending.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 14:28 IST

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