Smuggling of essentials a way of life along Bengal border HAKIMPUR, Angrail: Delivering a lecture at a BSF function on May 22, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval had asked the force to rise above being a gun-firing outfit and collect intelligence by developing contacts with border people and engaging in their welfare. But the force has hardly any options on the border where the only welfare that people are looking for is free flow of smuggled goods. In south Bengal's 24 Parganas district, injustice of history on a people divided by partition is vivid and the futile attempt of borders cleaving a composite culture stark. The people risk their lives every day to smuggle goods as simple as salt, sugar, cumin seeds and powdered milk. These everyday items are scarce, and thus expensive, in Bangladesh but easily available in India. And the only thing on much of the south Bengal border that comes between ordinary Bangladeshis and their essentials is no more than a river or a narrow lane and the odd BSF men. Smuggling is livelihood for the border people and BSF the enemy. "It's not possible to build friendly relations with people on either side of the border. They are extremely hostile to BSF. They see us as an impediment in their everyday life," says BSF Commandant Rajesh who has been struggling to choke smuggling on a 12-km stretch of the border in Hakimpur, North 24 Parganas. This stretch is basically river Sonai that divides Hakimpur in India and Kakdanga in Bangladesh. Rajesh has deployed 300 men to guard this stretch and is still unsuccessful. "The last time we tried to stop a smuggling consignment from crossing the river, people gathered on both sides of the border-Indian and Bangladeshis-and began throwing stones at us," says Rajesh. He also has almost 40 cases, largely of molestation and rape, against his men in the local police station lodged by villagers. Rajesh claims most of them to be false and lodged to deter BSF from discharging its duty. DIG (intelligence) SP Tiwari informs that his men in south Bengal also have 153 cases of human rights violations against them, claiming most of them to be false. "Socio-economic condition of the border people and economy of the place is such that smuggling has become a way of life," says Tiwari. The task gets more difficult due to the peculiarity of the border where in districts such as Malda it divides a house by half while in North 24 Parganas narrow lanes criss-crossing a village, that has existed as a composite unit for over a century, demarcate the two countries. "It is difficult to regulate exchange of goods in such villages. We try to control how much sugar or other essentials one is carrying so that large-scale smuggling does not take place," said a BSF officer at Zero point border outpost in North 24 Parganas.