To treat any innocent border crossing as crime is not friendship04 August 2015 Editorial Desk
Around two months after going missing from Dhaka city, BNP leader Mr. Salahuddin Ahmed was found in Shillong, the capital of the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya bordering Bangladesh.
A Shillong police patrol spotted him loitering in the Golf Link area of the tourist city. As he could not produce any documents and also seemingly appeared to be "mentally unbalanced", they arrested him on charge of trespassing and admitted him to a mental hospital. It still remains a mystery how and when Mr. Salahuddin, joint-secretary general of the BNP, landed in Shillong after he was allegedly picked up by plainclothes law enforcers from a house in Dhaka's Uttara area on March 10.
Finding him "mentally unbalanced", the law enforcers later sent him to Meghalaya Institute of Health and Neurological Science and then to Shillong Civil Hospital, according to local police there. He was arrested on charges of trespassing under the Foreigners Act since he had no valid travel papers, police said. Interpol's National Bureau in Dhaka in the meantime sent a "letter of request" to its New Delhi bureau to arrest Mr. Salahuddin, which was forwarded to the Meghalaya police who claimed that he had already been arrested.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Salahuddin Ahmed was arrested after he had voluntarily gone to the nearest police station to give his identity. Since he consciously did not go to Shillong or cross the border at his free will, the Indian government recognizing the fact should not keep him arrested for indefinite period. He still remains in the post of the joint-secretary general of the BNP, the largest opposition party in Bangladesh and is, therefore, most certainly not an ordinary person to be treated as a criminal and charged for trespassing under the Foreigners Act (1946) without decision at the high level.
Mr Salahuddin did not enter India whimsically or hiding from the police. So, the question of committing a crime under the Foreigners Act does not arise, especially between two friendly countries. No criminal law is applied on the basis of letters of the law only. The intention is predominantly important.
It is possible for anybody to push somebody across the porous border between Bangladesh and India. But the Meghalaya government intentionally projected it as a serious crime against India. He is being harassed for months together although he has not sought asylum or anything. We do not find it as a sign of friendship. The government of Meghalaya went ahead with the proceedings as if it was a place for outsourcing political opponents from Bangladesh.
It is not that Mr. Salahuddin went to India to commit any crime. The simple solution was to send him back to Bangladesh. We are not sure how a friendly country can so unkindly treat a citizen of a friendly country? It is obvious for some political reasons Mr. Salahuddin is detained but we do not know what those political reasons behind this case. No government can ensure friendship with another country unless the people see such friendship. Today it is Mr. Salahuddin, and tomorrow anybody can be a victim of push back or accidental crossing of the border.
Funnily, we hear from our government that it is making arrangement to bring Mr. Salahuddin back. In other words, he is to be treated as a running away criminal. The whole episode is disturbing for honest and trusted relationship with any country.
There are many illegal workers from India in Bangladesh, but our government is not harassing them, as India is doing in the case of Mr. Salahuddin who is a known opposition political leader.