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13 Feb 2017

Lens on jawans' friend lists

Imran Ahmed Siddiqui, TT, New Delhi, Feb. 12: BSF jawans posted along international borders are under scrutiny for having trans-border connection, especially with their counterparts in Pakistan.
"It is an act of indiscipline. Soldiers are strictly barred from befriending or communicating with their counterparts in Pakistan and other neighbouring countries," a senior home ministry official said yesterday.
The paramilitary force has ordered an inquiry against jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav for having Facebook friends among Pakistani soldiers.
The jawan had last month uploaded a video alleging shoddy food and poor working conditions for soldiers posted along the Line of Control.
"Bahadur is not alone though. We have come across several jawans who have Facebook friends from Pakistan and Bangladesh. This goes against the conduct of the force. Our team is scanning social media accounts of such jawans. Disciplinary action will be taken against those having objectionable people on their friends list," a BSF official said.
Sources in the paramilitary force said that on Id, Indian and Pakistani army personnel exchanged sweets at several points along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. BSF personnel and Pakistani Rangers also exchange pleasantries, hugging and shaking hands on Id and Diwali every year on the Wagah border and also in Rajasthan.
"But last year the jawans from the two countries did not exchange sweets at the Attari Wagah border following ceasefire violations and escalated tensions between the two countries," a senior BSF official said.
Last month the home ministry had restricted the use of social media by paramilitary personnel after a video posted by Bahadur complained about poor food and working conditions. Personnel were banned from uploading personal photos or videos on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or YouTube without permission from the directors-general of their forces.
An internal report said that over 75 per cent of the 9 lakh paramilitary personnel now had access to smartphones.
Former BSF director-general Prakash Singh said it was a very serious issue if jawans guarding the LoC have friends among Pakistani soldiers. "Inquiry should be ordered against those jawans having friends from across the border to ascertain whether they exchanged any information," Singh said.
A BSF jawan who was posted earlier at the LoC recalled that jawans from both countries had nothing to do but "stare at each other" and used "expletives or pleasantries" to relieve their boredom, especially at night.
"On many occasions jawans from both the countries congratulate each other after being granted leave to go home," he said. "The bonhomie is a testimony of goodwill and is expected to strengthen the efforts towards maintaining peace along the LoC."

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