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India’s porous borders

india Updated: Feb 17, 2008 00:45 IST
Manish Tiwari
Manish Tiwari
Hindustan Times
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The border between India and Nepal is more than 1,750 kilometres long. For most of its length, you can walk across for dinner, and go back for the night and breakfast — completely unchallenged by anybody.

Last December, a clutch of young Maoists from Nepal crossed over into India in Bihar and planted their party flags, staking a claim to the area. Again, they were not challenged — on either side of the border. That’s how easy it is to cross this border.

But a breakfast or dinner is the last thing on the minds of millions of people who cross this border every day. And many of them are criminals like the kidney racket kingpin Amit Kumar. Or terrorists.

India has 7,000 km of seacoast, and shares 14,000 km of land borders with six countries. Portions of the land frontiers are fenced and impossible to breach. But the rest are invitingly porous for those who want to cross over.

Terrorists use Nepal to stage operations in India. Northeast militants are headquartered across the border in Bangladesh. Many evade arrest in India by simply slipping into Myanmar. Smugglers, of course, thrive.

And then there is the border with Pakistan which could be anything from porous to ant-proof depending on where you are. While the border in Punjab is fenced and electrified, it’s open in Rajasthan and in parts of Jammu & Kashmir.

Hindustan Times reporters take a fresh look at these borders, at the people on either side, the security arrangement — or the lack of it, in a series of reports from the frontier towns and villages.

In the first of this series, Manish Tiwari writes about how the security forces are fighting a losing battle on the Indo-Nepal border in Bihar. “It has become a dangerous place to live in,” a resident of the area told Tiwari.