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While coming down heavily on Union Home Minister Amit Shah for extending the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces (BSF) in West Bengal, Punjab, and Assam from 15 km to 50 km, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders have described the move as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.

In a gazette notification, the Union Home Minister mentioned the amendment made in the earlier notification of 2014 on the jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states where it guards the international border.

As per the amendment, the BSF can operate up to an area of 50 km inside the Indian side from the International Border (IB) along the India-Pakistan and India-Bangladesh borders to check terror activities and inter-border crimes.

It was learnt that as per Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968, the central government can modify and amend the area and extend the operational requirement of the BSF (based on the situation).

The new circular also empowered the BSF to conduct raids to check border-related crimes in coordination with the local administration.

Condemning the move, a senior TMC leader and the Chairman of North Bengal Development Board (NBDB), Rabindranath Ghosh, said, “The extension of BSF’s jurisdiction by the Union Home Ministry will lead to a standoff between the central force and the local administration in the bordering area. I believe that the decision taken by the central government is unconstitutional, illegal and an attempt to crush the democratic set-up of our country.”

“We have police stations, State police and administration to take care of illegal activities and to maintain law and order situation. Increasing the jurisdiction of the BSF clearly shows too much interference of the Central government in State’s affairs,” he said.

West Bengal shares international boundaries with Bangladesh. The state has 2, 217 km-long border with Bangladesh.

TMC State General Secretary and Spokesperson, Kunal Ghosh tweeted, “The manner in which the Union Home Ministry extended the jurisdiction of BSF from 15 km to 50 km along the border area is highly objectionable. This is an attempt to interfere in State’s affair with an intention to destabilise the elected government through the back door. The State government is looking into the matter and it will respond appropriately at the right time.”

TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy claimed that the State government will respond to the matter soon.

Former Minister of Finance and External Affairs and the Vice President, Trinamool Congress, Yashwant Sinha, also objected to the decision and tweeted, “So far the two mischievous minds in Delhi were ruling by misusing ED, Income Tax, CBI, NIA, Narcotics Bureau and other such agencies. Now, they have added BSF to that list. Federalism can go to hell.”

The decision taken by the Union Home Minister is certainly going to be another flashpoint between West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah as ‘Didi’ many times in the past expressed her dismay over BSF for entering bordering villages in Bengal in the name of community development programmes.

In March 2020, amid reports of BSF indulging in Community Development Programmes (CDPs) at the bordering areas, Mamata Banerjee asked the State administration to ensure that BSF should not enter the village in the name of social service/community development events.

While addressing an administrative meeting at Kaliganj in North Dinajpur, Mamata had said, “They (BSF) should not interfere in local issues. It is the job of the police to look into the local issues. Police should stay alert here because North Dinajpur shares a border with Bangladesh.”

“I have raised the matter before the Union Home Minister and have informed the ministry about their (BSF) activities. Those who are guarding the border should not enter villages in the name of community services. They should not interfere in local issues because law and order is a State subject. I would like to tell the police officers posted in these areas to look into the matter,” she had said.

West Bengal Congress President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too objected to the move and tweeted, “The expansion of #BSF area of jurisdiction up to 50 km from the border of some states amounts to the brazen infringement upon the territory of states. @HMOIndia, you should not indulge any ‘Chherkhani’ else will face the consequences.”

However, BJP leader and MLA from Nandigram, Suvendu Adhikari welcomed the move and tweeted, “I Congratulate Hon’ble Home Minister of India Shri @AmitShah ji for this Gazette Notification. Hope that fortifying WB’s porous border will weed out free-flowing illicit trade of drugs & cow trafficking & infiltration; operational due to the patronage of WB ruling party & Police.”

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