A 35-year-old man was gunned down by a Border Security Force (BSF) cop in Cooch Behar early on Wednesday.

While the BSF alleged that the person, Maklesur Rahaman aka Mithu, was a cattle smuggler and had attacked their personnel at the India-Bangladesh border, his family members accused the central security force of killing him without provocation. Rahaman was a farmer from the bordering village of Nayarhat-Tutiyarkuti village under Sahebganj police station, they said.

According to police sources, the company commander of the 169th battalion of the BSF filed a complaint at Mathabhanga police station on Wednesday, saying that around 2.30am, an on-duty constable of BSF at Chungerkatha border outpost spotted the suspicious movement of 20 to 25 persons across the India-Bangladesh border fence.

“In the complaint, it was said that as the constable challenged them, the group attacked and tried to overpower him. This made him fire three rounds from his Insas rifle in defence. The group fled,” said Amit Verma, the additional superintendent of police of Mathabhanga.

Later, when the BSF searched the area, it found Rahaman’s body near the border fence on the Indian side. The BSF also seized sticks, sharp weapons and five cattle from the spot.

“The body was recovered and a magisterial inquest done. It was sent to the sub-divisional hospital in Mathabhanga for post-mortem. Probe is on,” added Verma.

Rahaman is survived by his mother, wife and four-year-old son.

“My son was a farmer and had nothing to do with smuggling at the border. The BSF killed him without any reason. He left for a relative’s place last evening (Tuesday) and didn’t return. Today (Wednesday), we got the dreadful news. We want justice,” said Marina Bibi, Rahaman’s mother.

The Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, a rights group, has condemned the incident.

“It is surprising that the BSF didn’t apprehend him so that he could be brought to the court of law for his alleged role in smuggling. Instead, they shot him down and created a fictitious story. We want a thorough probe,” said Kirity Roy, secretary of the Mancha.

In Bengal, incidents of BSF firing at the border which have led to deaths were severely criticised by chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamul leaders, including party general secretary Abhishek Banerjee. Both Mamata and Abhishek have accused the BSF of resorting to firing without provocation.

Mamata in the past also questioned the Centre’s decision to increase the BSF’s jurisdiction from 15km to 50km within Indian territory from the international border. A resolution was also passed in the Bengal Assembly against the decision.

Udayan Guha, the NB development minister who hails from Dinhata of Cooch Behar, condemned Wednesday’s incident.

“I raised the issue (of the BSF firing) in the Assembly today (Wednesday). The Centre should immediately control the BSF which often fires at residents of bordering villages. If the central security force is not restrained, tension can crop up in the areas,” Guha said.

Sukumar Roy, the Cooch Behar BJP chief and an MLA, backed the BSF.

“It seems Guha and some other leaders want the withdrawal of the BSF so that crossborder smuggling can flourish. These days, some people have developed the habit of making baseless accusations at the force that guards our borders,” Roy said.

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