A general strike enforced in India by the opposition parties on Monday to protest against price rise may have inconvenienced millions in the country but in neighbouring Nepal, it saved villagers' lives.
Seven poor labourers who were taken captive in a village in southern Nepal by a gang of Indian bandits were saved from being killed as the captors could not take them to India across the border, thanks to the strike, police said.
Instead, forced to go into hiding in Nepal while waiting for the strike to be over, the gang was accosted by police, resulting in the death of three of its members.
The terror drama began Monday night when the seven labourers, working on the construction of a bridge in Dang district along the Indian border, were heading towards the site in a tractor that also carried bags of cement.
They were stopped by a group of 13 people, nine of whom were armed with home-made guns.
Before the villagers could comprehend what was happening, they were tied up and beaten mercilessly, the police said.
Then the gang, headed by Tulla Musalman from Nawabganj village in India's Uttar Pradesh state, released one of them, asking him to inform the tractor owner and the captives' families and return with the extortion money.
Later at night, they released a second man, Prem Bahadur Singh, telling him to be back with Nepali Rs.1.1 million.
Singh's 20-year-old daughter Rupsara and her husband Himmat Singh were among the remaining captives.
"It was an especially hard time for the couple," said Deputy Police Superintendent Binod Prasad Ghimire.
"The gang were receiving calls on their mobile phones. The villagers could gauge they were being told to kill all the men but spare Rupsara, who was to have been taken away to India."
However, the general strike in India that affected transport put paid to the gang's plans, Ghimire feels.
"Due to the disruption, they could not take their victims across to India or escape themselves," Ghimire told IANS.
"They were forced to hide in a nearby forest, waiting for the strike to end."
Nepal police traced the gang to the forest and in the ensuing exchange of fire, three of the bandits were killed.
"While one is a Nepali, the other two are Indians," Ghimire said.
"One of them has been identified as Babadin Yadav, also from Uttar Pradesh. Had they been able to escape to India, things would have gone beyond our control."
Police also arrested two men from the village who were part of the gang.