On December 5 last year, 30-odd Young Communist League (YCL) activists from Kakrvita in Nepal came down to the border of West Bengal and Bihar in Kishanganj and pitched three red flags — a national flag of Nepal, a Maoist flag and the YCL flag — about 500 metres inside Indian territory.
Indian officials say this was not an isolated incident. A series of such attempts by the Maoist group in the past few months have landed the Indian security agencies in a spot. The YCL has, in fact, been camping in Susta, a 5,400-acre ‘disputed territory’, since the 1980s. The group is also working on the concept of a Greater Nepal and even claiming Garhwal and Kumaon as part of that entity, said SSB officials.
Though the problem has persisted in certain stretches for years, YCL activists have made at least six attempts since November last to pitch red flags inside Indian territory, say officials. Two months ago, YCL took out a march between Mechi and Mahakali on the Nepal side to show its presence and “check the disputed land”, informed a Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB) official.
According to Sunil Chopra, commandant of 21st SSB Battalion at Kishanganj, five days after the December incident, a YCL group came up between border pillars 107 and 108 in Kishanganj and claimed that some of the areas fell in Nepal.
Old disputes, new vigour
The plot has been simmering since April 2005, when an SSB patrol found 71 Maoist flags and three banners about 100 metres inside India — 2 km from the border outpost at Tawavita. An SSB official said, “We had a joint meeting between the two countries. We also registered an FIR in Kurli Kot, Thakurganj, against 25 Maoists. Both countries have decided to maintain status quo.”
Intelligence officials said that since January 20 YCL activists have travelled along Kanchanwadi, Singhimari, Kadduvita, Dighalbank, Pathamari, Tawalvita, Galgalia and towards West Bengal up to border pillar number 49. Their main thrust, though, was on pillar 108, which involves a ‘dispute’ of 232.9 acres, and pillar 49, which involves 500 acres.
“This land may have shifted because of the change in the course of the Mechi river, the mid-stream of which is the India-Nepal boundary. The land belongs to India, as indicated by the border pillars,” says a local SSB official.
“It all seems very planned: the number of disputed points is fast increasing,” said SSB deputy inspector-general (Patna frontier) SK Jha. Bihar inspector-general (operations) SK Bhardwaj said the belt had become more sensitive with the Maoists increasing dominance in Nepal.
“Maoists have targeted customs officials too. We are taking these developments seriously,” says Shaukat Ali, assistant customs commissioner at Raxaul.