The Curious Case of the BSF

The long pending grievances of the force have to be addressed as urgently as possible

Ravi Kumar Ponoth 

Ravi Kumar Ponoth The forbidden world of the Border Security Force (BSF) finds true expression only through the closed groups in the social media. The rank and file of the BSF, being governed by stringent special act and rules, are not at liberty to air their views freely and hence, release their pent up frustration by indulging in closed group discussions.

It is not only ironic but also a pity that the common man gets to hear about the BSF only when our unfriendly western neighbour unleashes her volleys on the BSF border out posts (BOPs), the BSF personnel give better than befitting reply and force them into silence. Also, more anomalous is the fact that a large segment of our citizens are not quite aware that it is the BSF which guards the entire stretch of India’s International Border (IB) with both Pakistan and Bangladesh and, even during war, the BSF BOPs would be the first responders to an external aggression and continue to fight to the last man and last bullet in their original locations, all of which are well ahead of the main defences of the army.

Inexplicably, due recognition for discharging one of the toughest assignments in the government service has so far evaded the BSF personnel, including the BSF cadre officers, who have contributed even with their lives in all the major internal and external conflicts faced by our country. Despite the fact that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi went on record to praise the contributions and sacrifices made by the BSF in the 1971 war, along with that of the other defence services, the BSF is not a partner in ‘Vijay Divas’ which is celebrated by the eastern command of the army to commemorate the 1971 war victory in the eastern theatre.

War historians have perhaps glossed over the fact that it was the BSF which established contact with the top Mukti Bahini leadership of the then East Pakistan, clandestinely but safely brought them across the IB to Calcutta and housed them initially at 2-B Lord Sinha Road (presently the office of IG BSF South Bengal Frontier) which then acted as the Mukti Bahini Operations room from where the initial strategy to progress the movement was drawn. It is also a lesser known fact that it was the BSF which organised and executed the overnight transformation of the deputy High Commission of Pakistan at Calcutta to that of Bangladesh deputy High Commission as well as the historic declaration of independence of Bangladesh, and the first ever formal hoisting of the Bangladesh national flag at Mujib Nagar, Khulna, Bangladesh, besides, of course, the active participation of all BSF battalions then deployed in the eastern theatre in both offensive and defensive operations in the war.

Sacrifices made by the BSF heroes in stabilising the tumultuous extremist/separatist movements in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as well as the on-going Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) movement (1,692 all ranks killed and 6,683 injured in operations so far) have not yet shaken up the government to accord due recognition as well as perks and compensation. Most ironic is the truth that the BSF personnel receive lesser pay and perks via-a-vis their army counterparts even when deployed along with the army personnel and performing exactly similar duties in the forward defended localities (FDLs) along the Line of Control (LC) with Pakistan in J&K.

Expectations, however, soared when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his parliamentary election campaign at Solan in Himachal Pradesh, promised that all the grievances of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel would be addressed but the euphoria has since died down mainly due to the fact that the ministry of home affairs (MHA), for reasons best known to them, is strongly objecting to the grant of organised service status or even the minimal financial benefit of Non-Functional Up-gradation (NFU) to the CAPF cadre officers, who are the true heroes leading their men in operations and standing by them even in death. The aforesaid benefits have already been extended to all other civil services who operate from the cushy comfort of their offices in the national and state capitals.

Indo-Pakistan Borders
When the BSF is on the threshold of completing 50 glorious years, it would be worthwhile to review the operational environment of the force, both along the eastern and western borders and identify the major areas meriting urgent intervention of the government. Lack of political stability, umpiring by army and the army’s unholy alliances with fundamentalist elements in the western neighbourhood has accorded a degree of permanency to the trans-border conflicts between India and Pakistan. Besides the involvement of various identified terrorist outfits operating at the behest of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for destabilising our country, the spectre of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) extending its tentacles to our neighbourhood and ultimately crossing the borders is also looming large.

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