A teenager from Bihar died in police firing in Nepal on Monday, triggering a bitter neighbourly spat as New Delhi strongly condemned the action while prime minister KP Oli told India to keep off “our internal affairs”.
A four-hour clash between Madhesi protesters and Nepali forces left 19-year-old Ashish Kumar Ram aka Sonu Ram, a resident of Darbhanga, dead and more than 100 wounded on the India-Nepal border which has been blocked for the past 40 days by groups opposed to the newly-drafted constitution.
The blockade has stranded thousands of supply trucks from India to the land-locked Himalayan nation which depends heavily on essentials, medicine and fuel supplies from its neighbour.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rang up Oli to express shock over the killing of the Indian teenager, who was shot in the head, and assured that there was no obstacle from the Indian side on supply of fuel and food.
Also, India issued a couched statement to show its displeasure over Kathmandu’s failure to address grievances of the Madeshi community, rising anti-India sentiments and Nepal warming up to China for fuel supply.
“Issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved by force. Causes underlying the current state of confrontation need to be addressed by the government of Nepal credibly and effectively,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
Nepal has accused India of imposing an unofficial blockade along the border and PM Oli said as much on Monday at a function in Kathmandu. He accused India of propping up Madhesi political parties to impose blockades and warned New Delhi not to interfere in his nation’s internal affairs. Witnesses said the crackdown along Birgunj-Raxaul border, which is crucial for Nepal as 60% of its trade with India takes place through it, began on Sunday when Nepali forces drove out protestors from the no man’s land separating Raxaul and Birgunj. The timing was crucial because people were busy casting their votes in the fourth phase of the Bihar assembly polls that day.
But when news spread, thousands of protestors rushed to the border and clashed with the forces. Sunita Sah, a Madhesi district leader, who was on the border, told HT from Birgunj how Ram was killed. “I saw a young man in a black vest using an alternative route through an adjacent village to return from Birgunj towards Raxaul. The police caught him.”
Sah said they begged police from a distance not to harm him, but they shot him point blank. Father Ashok Ram said Ashish had gone to Birgunj for some personal work and was shot on his way back.