Shot by BSF, 9th grader may lose eyesight
12:00 AM, May 18, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:18 AM, May 18, 2018

Shot by BSF, 9th grader may lose eyesight

On the afternoon of April 30, Russell Mia went to bring his cattle home and collect some grass from the bordering area in Fulbari upazila of Kurigram.

Several members of the Indian Border Security Force suddenly appeared from a maize field in Indian territory around 3:15pm. They were coming towards Russell, 14.

Panicked, the ninth grader jumped in the Dharala river and took a dip, thinking he could escape the imminent danger this way.

“But the moment I raised my head, a BSF man shot at my face,” Russell told The Daily Star yesterday.

He may lose his vision due to multiple pellet injuries on both eyes, said doctors at the National Institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) in the capital, where he is being treated.

Golam Mostafa, director of the NIO, said chances of his regaining vision in the right eye was slim.

“His left eye has also been damaged. Several splinters were found in both of his eyes,” he said.

Russell's brother Rubel Mia, who sat the HSC examination form a local college this year, said his brother had 40 pellet injury marks on the face, including two in his right eye and one in the left.

When shot with rubber bullets from PAG (pump action gun), Russell was 20 yards inside Bangladesh territory, said Lt Col Golam Morshed, Commanding Officer 15 BGB Battalion.

Contacted last night, Ramakant Gupta, first secretary (consular) of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, said, “I am not aware of the incident.”

After being shot, Russell tried to swim ashore, but he soon fainted, relatives said. 

Two local youths, who were nearby, pulled him out of the water and took him to Fulbari Upazila Health Complex with the help of locals.

Russell was later shifted to a private hospital in Rangpur. On May 5, he was brought to the NIO at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the capital. 

His father Hanif Uddin is a farmer, sometimes working on his 1.5 bigha land and at other times working as a day labourer.

Although Hanif struggles to run his family with his meagre income, he takes care of his four children's education well. His eldest daughter has completed her master's while another daughter completed her graduation.

After the shooting, the family has already spent Tk 1.6 lakh for Russell's treatment.

“My father mortgaged 30 decimals of our land, sold two cows and borrowed some money from neighbours,” Rubel said, adding that they had no other means to arrange money.

Golam Morshed, the BGB commander, said they held a company commander and battalion commander-level meetings with the BSF.

“We protested the incident both verbally and in writing,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

In the company commander-level meeting, the BSF regretted the incident. But in the battalion commander-level meeting, they said the BSF fired as they had information that the boy and several others who went there were smugglers, he said.

Replying to a query, Morshed said their primary investigation suggested that Russell was innocent and had no involvement in smuggling.

Meanwhile, rights body Ain o Salish Kendra wrote to the national human rights commission of India on May 13 about the shooting.

Yesterday, the ASK sent a letter to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, demanding punishment of those involved in the shooting and also compensation for Russell.

“Through the Indian High Commission we also sent a letter to the chief justice of the Kolkata High Court,” said an ASK official.

Kriti Roy, chief of Indian rights body Bangla Manab Adhikar Suraksha Mancha, said they sought all the papers related to the incident from the ASK.

Upon getting those, they will file a petition with the Kolkata High Court, seeking punishment of the attackers and proper compensation for the boy, Roy added.

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