Senior TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee on Saturday slammed the Centre and the Border Security Force over the "killing" of a local person in West Bengal's Cooch Behar district in December last year, whom the BSF has claimed to be "a cattle smuggler".
Prem Kumar Barman, 24, was gunned down by a BSF constable in the Dinhata block near the India-Bangladesh border in December 2022. The family members had claimed that he was a "migrant labourer who had returned home a few days back", whereas the BSF had "contended that the deceased was a "cattle smuggler".
"Why did the BSF personnel shoot Prem Kumar? Was it because he was a Rajbanghsi? We are giving a 48-hour time to the BSF, the Centre, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his deputy Nisith Pramanik to clear their stand and apologise to the people of Cooch Behar," the TMC national general secretary said while addressing a rally here.
Claiming that Prem Kumar's autopsy report had stated that 180 pellets were fired at him, Banerjee said he was shocked at the "atrocity meted out to the local youth". "Even if Prem Kumar was a cattle smuggler, which the BSF so claims, why did you not arrest him? Did you find any gun from him? What was the need to fire at him? All those guilty BSF officials will be brought to justice, even if we have to approach the high court or the Supreme Court," he said.
Reacting to the allegations, BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh accused the TMC of questioning the security forces and "being sympathetic to infiltrators and cattle smugglers""This is a matter of shame that for political interests, a party can stoop to such a low that it questions the BSF and our security forces. This is shameful.
The TMC, from the very beginning, has a habit of being sympathetic towards cattle smugglers, infiltrators and anti-nationals to secure its vote bank," he claimed. The BJP-led central government had, in 2021, amended the BSF Act to authorize the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a 50 km stretch, instead of 15 km, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
It has snowballed into a major political issue in Bengal, with the ruling TMC passing a resolution in the state assembly opposing the Centre's decision.