Indo-Nepal border: Peaceful on the surface but unease existsdehradun Updated: Apr 16, 2017 20:27 IST
A border pillar on no man's land at Gadda Chowki.(HT Photo)
It’s a busy morning at the Indian side in Uttarakhand’s Banbasa close to the Indo–Nepal border. Vehicles ply across both sides of the border.
But, things were not the same in March. Tension had spread after the alleged firing by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) on some Nepalese nationals, who were constructing a culvert at a border pillar at Basai in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Khiri on March10, resulted in the death of one Nepalese national. The SSB had stopped vehicles from Indian side to enter Nepal. Two motorcycles bearing Indian registration numbers were burnt in nepal’s Mahendranagar.
The calm has a peaceful yet an eerie feel as it hangs by a thin thread glued by ‘maitri’ (friendship) between the two countries that share ties of ‘roti’ and ‘beti’ (livelihood and marital ties).
The Nepalese often taken offence to India’s big brother attitude. The memories of an economic blockade during the Rajiv Gandhi era in 1989 and later in 2015 are not forgotten. Incidents like the one at Lakhimpur Khiri strain the ‘maitri’ between the two countries.
No issue, claims SSB
Sashastra Seema (SSB) commandant KC Rana said the Indo-Nepal border in Uttarakhand is totally peaceful and there is no tension. “(Some) border pillars have been damaged at few spots due to erosion by waters of Sharda river and human activity. It is not clear whether they have been destroyed on purpose,” he tells HT.
A joint survey was held by the Surveys of India and Nepal which will reach reach Champwat in a few months after which the eaxct situation about the pillars will become clear, he says.
India and Nepal share an open border that is not fenced unlike the border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Passport is not required to cross over to either side. People can just walk on foot, or two-wheelers. A fee is taken from vehicles for entering Nepal from India. As the border is porous, it is patrolled by the SSB personnel on the Indian side and the Nepal Praharis on the other side. A no-man’s land across the border acts like a buffer zone. It is used for grazing cattle. At few places, farmers have sown crops.
The land is demarcated by pillars set up by the two countries. Local residents allege some pillars are damaged on the Nepalese side for advancing territory limits. They cite the example of the pillar at Brahmdev, which is removed, and the market shifted on the side of the Indian border. The Nepalese chowki in-charge Gokul Balayar refutes the allegations.
The Tanakpur border in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district just lies by the picturesque Sharda barrage that irrigates parts of Nepal. The Brahmdev market, which is situated in Kanchanpur disitrict of Nepal, starts barely 10-15 metres from the edge of the barrage. The market gets a heavy influx of pilgrims returning from the Purnagiri mela in Champawat.
Uttarakhand shares 263 km of the 1,751 km-long Indo-Nepal border. There are 20 main pillars and36 sub-pillars in this stretch.
Nanda Dhami, who is from Darchula in Nepal and runs a restaurant at Brahmdev, says the shopkeepers depend on Indian pilgrims for business for three months of the Purnagiri mela. “After 3 months, this market is removed. We move to Indian cities for work in restaurants.”
Another shop owner Dileep Singh says tension is detrimental to trade and hits the livelihood of people on both sides. “We are dependent on India for food, education... My son studies in Tanakpur and we get ration from the Indian city just across the border. The people here have one slogan on their lips: ‘Nepal Aama and Bharat mata ki jai’,” he asserts.
Gokul Balayar, a sub-inspector of Nepal Civilian Police who is posted at the Brahmdev international check post, Nepal, says the talks of tension were over stretched though he admits such incidents curb vehicles movement across the border. “There has been some dispute on pillar No 1 or Khalla at 22 acre area on international border near Tanakpur, but it has not lead to any tension.” The matter is being discussed by higher authorities, he says.
Several kilometers south of Tanakpur lies Banbasa city which falls in Champwat district and shares border with Nepal across the Sharda barrage. The area has an immigration check post and vehicles can cross over to Nepal and vice-versa four times during the day. Calm prevails but some locals allege that farming of Nepalese farmers have reached upto the no man’s land. Across the the bridge lies the Gadda Chowki of Nepal where a pillar proclaims that the territory of India and Nepal ends.
Tensions in the past
Dharmendra Chand, a veteran journalist of Tanakpur, says the Indo-Nepal border in Tanakpur has seen tension in the past.
He points out that the Tanakpur region has five border pillars out of which one has vanished. Meetings were held by officials of both the counties but no action has been taken.
In 2011, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) raised anti-India slogans at the border. On March 16, the CPN (UML) took out a ‘Mahakali’ rally to protest against the recent incident at Lakhimpur Khiri. Chands recollects that in the past, the Nepalese Young Communist League members had reached the Brahmdev market across Tanakpur and demonstrated against Indian hegemony leading to tensions. After this, the Hindutwa outfits such as Vishva Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal had taken out a march to the border but a confrontation was averted by security forces.