Troubled relations between Nepal and India nosedived after a leading daily on Thursday carried a report about a meeting between Binaya Kumar, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy, with several Madhesi leaders outside Kathmandu.
The media report in Thursday’s edition of The Kantipur stated that Kumar reportedly asked Madhesi leaders about their upcoming protest in Kathmandu and urged them to increase participation of Madhesi people to press their demands over the constitution.
Kumar reportedly held meetings with Madhesi leaders in Rajbiraj, in Saptari district and one of the major hubs of the Madhesi agitation, “on the pretext of a social programme” and held meetings with agitating Madhes-based leaders at a local hotel on Tuesday evening.
Refuting the media report, the Indian Embassy said in a statement: “Kantipur report on DCM’s visit to Saptari is a piece of Yellow Journalism. No political issues were discussed during his visit.”
The news report has triggered a huge debate on social media and the opinions are divided.
Some say the move is natural given the ties between Nepal and India, while others have criticised the meeting saying that Madhes-based leaders have access to the Indian embassy officials.
The Madhes parties are preparing to launch a Kathmandu centric protest from next week over the constitution, which they say discriminates against them.
Madhesis, who live in the Terai region bordering India, comprise half the population of Nepal.
The report is a “mischievous” effort to create controversies, the Indian Embassy said in its statement.
However, the newspaper stood by its report and published photos of Kumar’s meeting with Madhesi leaders in Rajbiraj, the headquarters of Saptari district.
“Holding agitation is your fundamental rights,” Kumar reportedly told the Madhes-based leaders according to the report. “You have to increase your participation in Kathmandu-centric agitation so that the state can hear and will initiate to fulfill your demands,” he is reported to have said.
The Indian official was in Saptari to discuss the progress of the India-financed projects in the area.
Some of the Madhesi leaders who had met Kumar gave their statement on record to The Kantipur journalist and shared the content of the meeting.
Besides leaders, local Nepal government officials also went to meet Kumar in the hotel where he was staying where they forgot the protocol too, the report said.
However, the Indian Embassy has warned that such reports would harm Nepal-India ties.
“Kantipur’s report may harm India-Nepal relations. Readers deserve better from the mass media,” the statement said.
In Nepal, leaders from across the spectrum and political fraternity do meet the Indian ambassador and Indian Embassy officials and India and Nepal also share several cultural, historical, political and other ties.