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Inadvertent strays across Indo-Pak border get ‘humanitarian treatment’ even in tense times

Amritsar, Oct 5 (IANS) Mohammed Tanveer, 12, a village resident from Pakistan’s Kasur district bordering India’s Ferozepur district, strayed into India last Sunday while trying to find drinking water at a tubewell. Despite hostilities between both nuclear-armed neighbours at their peak, the boy was handed over by the Border Security Force (BSF) to its Pakistan counterparts on “humanitarian grounds” the very next day.

Before going back to Pakistan, Tanveer said that he was treated well by Indian border guards after he was apprehended in the area of responsibility of the Dona Telu Mal border out-post (BoP) in Ferozepur sector.

“He inadvertently crossed International Boundary and entered Indian territory. The individual was grazing his cattle in Pakistan area near the IB and came inside Indian territory to drink water from a tubewell on Indian side as he was very thirsty,” BSF Punjab Frontier Deputy Inspector General R.S. Kataria said.

Why does this happen? Punjab shares a 553-km IB with Pakistan. The entire border has an electrified barbed wire fence which is located 500 metres to 1 km inside Indian territory.

“Since the IB is much beyond the fence and our guards are mostly behind the fence, sometimes people stray into Indian territory and are apprehended,” a BSF commandant told IANS.

Thus, Tanveer is not the only case of inadvertent border crossers from both countries who stray into the territory of the other. Border guards of both nations, India’s BSF and Pakistan Rangers, have an established mechanism to repatriate such individuals.

This is in sharp contrast to Indian Army jawan Chandu Babulal Chauhan’s case, who is in the custody of the Pakistan Army after he inadvertently crossed across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir’s Mendhar sector.

The BSF has apprehended 26 Pakistani border crossers this year itself. They were handed over to the Pakistan Rangers.

In 2015, 12 Pakistani inadvertent border crossers were repatriated by the BSF.

In mid-April this year, the BSF handed back Pakistani national Mohammed Waqas Akram of Pati Chak village in Pakistan’s Bhawalnagar district, just days after an Indian prisoner, Kirpal Singh, 54, died mysteriously inside a jail in Pakistan’s Lahore city.

In March, the BSF handed over a five-year-old deaf and dumb Pakistani girl to border authorities in Pakistan after she inadvertently crossed over into Indian territory in Punjab’s Abohar sector, Kataria pointed out.

The BSF keeps a strict 24×7 vigil along the IB. Alert BSF troopers foiled an infiltration bid by around eight people at the Chakri BoP in Gurdaspur sector on Oct 3.

In 2016, the BSF has seized nearly 200 kg heroin, valued at Rs 1,000 crore ($ 150 million) in the international market, killed six Pakistani smugglers and six intruders, apprehended one Pakistani smuggler, killed two Indian smugglers and apprehended 12 Indian smugglers in Punjab’s border belt.

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