The Nepal-India border in the Far-West became the venue of Nepal’s new unrest, leaving one protester shot dead, while in the meantime the East’s Saptari had seen five Madeshi protesters dead. Demonstrations continue…
The border between India and Nepal is traditionally open for Nepalis and Indians to cross any time, and only when goods are taken from here to there, are they checked for paying occasional customs fees. Nepalis work in India in large numbers, getting much higher salary and better study and career opportunities than at home. They work often in luxurious hotels, factories, as doctors, engineers. Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai has large number of Nepalese workers-residents. But also India’s Hindu and Buddhist holy places are magnets for many Nepalis who prefer to stay in those religious places. For example Himachal Pradesh in India, which hosts the Dalai Lama, or Dehradun, Bodh Gaya , as well as South-Indian Mysore are places where Buddhists monasteries host many Nepalese monks and nuns. On the other hand, the late Sai Baba’s Puttaparthy, or the famous Mount Abu of the Brahmakumari sect, the holy place of Haridwar (with Baba Ramdev, India’s Yoga king’s mega ashram) and its industry – are all causes why Nepalis choose to reside in India….
Nepali police shot and killed at least three ethnic Madhesis in the country’s restive southern plains as they tried to disrupt an opposition rally, officials said on Monday, the deadliest incident in more than a year over its post-monarchy charter.
Dozens of people were protesting over a damaged culvert in Nepal’s Anandabazaar near the border with India on Thursday when Indian border guards opened fire, killing a 25-year-old man, a government statement said.
THE BORDER SITUATION
India and Nepal share a 1,751-km (1,094 miles) long and open border and thousands of people cross over each day to work and trade, but Nepali politicians have often accused India of meddling in its affairs.
The border between India and Nepal is traditionally open for Nepalis and Indians to cross any time, and only when goods are taken from here to there, are they checked for paying occasional customs fees. Nepalis work in India in large numbers, getting much higher salary and better study and career opportunities than at home. They work often in luxurious hotels, factories, as doctors, engineers. Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai has large number of Nepalese workers-residents. But also India’s Hindu and Buddhist holy places are magnets for many Nepalis who prefer to stay in those religious places. For example Himachal Pradesh in India, which hosts the Dalai Lama, or Dehradun, Bodh Gaya , as well as South-Indian Mysore are places where Buddhists monasteries host many Nepalese monks and nuns. On the other hand, the late Sai Baba’s Puttaparthy, or the famous Mount Abu of the Brahmakumari sect, the holy place of Haridwar (with Baba Ramdev, India’s Yoga king’s mega ashram) and its industry – are all causes why Nepalis choose to reside in India.
Yet, this freedom to benefit from the more developed neighbor country has a price: if I can go to your country, you can also come to mine, they say… India is “exporting” her Bihari and Uttar-Pradeshi poor people over the border, as, on the other hand, those uneducated villagers have problem to find work in their Pradeshs (federal states of India), the nearest for them is to pop through to Nepal, and work there as construction workers or seasonal farmers, barbers, vendors of vegetables, etc. They learn Nepali and build houses on the southern belt, along the border. After a few years they become naturalized and intermingle with the previous wave of Indians, commonly called “Madeshis” or, in slang “Deshi”.
This symbiosis had been working well most of the time, yet when politicians mix into it, tensions are fueled artificially. Because it is never Nepal’s or India’s rich who are forced to migrate here and there crossing the border, it is easy to incite hatred and despair among those for whom “The Border” is a crucial topic for their daily survival. The Border became a perfect means to pressure governments, the public, anyone to fulfill one’s demands. Already ancient nations knew that a siege is the best way to pressure a nation to give up and give in. The Siege of Jerusalem or for example the sieges against the Kathars in France had the goal to bring people to their knees by stopping the flow of stocks. The “Madeshi Andolan”, which was torturing Nepal’s inhabitants right after the earthquake, was such siege, yet little if any victory was won by it.
Nepal’s ties with India were strained towards the end of 2015 and into last year after it blamed India for tacitly supporting a months-long blockade on fuel and goods by Indian-origin plainspeople who are opposed to Nepal’s constitution.
TENSE ELECTION TIMES
It is important to note that Nepal is before one of its elections, and parties are trying to use the tense time to push the nation to the corner to accept their demands. The violence in Kanchanpur (and the same time in Saptari District in Nepal, where 5 Madeshi protesters had been killed by the Nepalese police!) a new reason for “Nepal Banda” – the nation-wide strike-curfew enforcement. It should be understood that, although not openly told, India, logically, feels sympathy with her own ex-Indian (now Madeshi or Deshi) citizens, who became paperless Nepalis. The “evil version” of this is told by some Nepalis, and the story goes like this: India “sends” her citizens to “invade” Nepal through the borders, slowly and gradually overtake, until Nepal is eaten up by the Madeshis (Bihari and Uttar-Pradeshi Indian immigrants). There is no way to prove this opinion, especially when seeing the economical hopelessness of often barefoot and begging Madeshis, one can hardly believe they had been “paid” to “invade” Nepal. Yet who knows…? Both nations are creating many such conspiracy theories about the other, and a Westerner can get confused easily.
The volatile Himalayan nation, sandwiched between China and India, has been in turmoil since the September 2015 adoption of the constitution that the minority Madhesi people living along the border with India oppose for failing to accommodate their interests.
Yet it is easy to recognize that India is repeating the necessity of taking the Madeshi’s political requirements seriously, sometimes maybe slightly more than it would be healthy. Nepal feels choked by this, as locals express it. Not able to totally refuse, neither totally accept them. This is exactly that situation when a decision between bad and worse has to be made, and no politician is brave enough to make it. It was like this, a “status quo” already from the “Madeshi Andolan”, the recent big uprising of the Madeshis, timed perfectly after the 2015 devastating earthquake, through the fight about the wording of the “Samidhan” (Constitution), until now, when the new elections had been planned. The luke-warmness of politicians who just seem to be unable to solve this mathematical puzzle, creates hot-headedness among radicals. The folk is taking things in their own hands, what is not a wise thing for anyone.
More than 50 people died in clashes in 2015 and there were severe shortages of fuel and medicines due to violence at the Indian border. The protests ended after the government promised to amend the constitution to address the grievances of the Madhesis, though no changes have been made yet.
Fresh trouble started on Monday in Rajbiraj, 150km (90 miles) southeast of capital Kathmandu, after Madhesi activists tried to storm a public rally organised by the main opposition Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party that opposes any change to the charter.
“We have three people confirmed killed,” Home Ministry spokesman Bal Krishna Panthi told Reuters.
India’s and Nepal’s “marriage” could be described by the U2 song With or without you… A total separation of India and Nepal, with a classical border, right now no one could imagine. Nepalis pour through every border point to Indian market towns along the borders to buy cheaper goods and sell them with gain in Nepal. In case of serious illnesses many Nepalis trust more the famous Apollo hospitals in India, hospitals in Delhi, Bareilly… Indians go to Nepal to sell their goods (often high-quality textiles), and have their own shops in cities along the border, on the Nepali side.
Al this makes a lively economy and opens many chances. Once a real border is created and the flow of seasonal workers and businessmen restricted (not speaking about the long tradition of crowded pilgrimages to both directions), that would isolate and harm huge amount of people on both sides of the long border. Yet the repeated violence and unrests protests, attacks and blockades are bringing up many questions how to stop these negative events, including a Trump-style border solution…
Punarbas Municipality of Kanchanpur District, where 35 years old Govinda Gautam received a bullet in his chest, had been named Punar-Bas because of the fact that Nepal had re-taken (received) the land from India as apart of a deal. Punar means “again, re-“, and Bas means something like “settlement”. Thus Punarbas is the area of re-settlers. Thus, this rather arid flatland surrounded by forests had been re-populated by Nepalis, who are relatively new there now. Rivers are crucial there for irrigation, but they are also causing floods and block ways to get to villages. In Kanchanpur rivers are often “in the way” to get home. Only in recent years did the local governments manage to build some bridges, but in certain places people cross rivers on small ferries and often even by foot (getting wet).Thus, the culvert which had been planned to be built by the villagers, was most probably of high importance, especially before the rainy season of Nepal starting from May.
Above: A stone culvert, illustrative photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culvert
Usually it was always poorer families who opted to settle in such areas, I was told. People who wanted a new start, or had no land and house, have got a chance. Punarbas has a very mixed population, and interestingly, has a large Buddhist Tamang percentage and even four Buddhist Gumbas (monasteries), although Western Nepal was never a traditionally Buddhist area.
The border along Punarbas is but not clearly distinguishable, as why to do it anyway when just a few kilometers East of it is Dhangadhi, where both Indians and Nepalis walk to each-others countries. Down to Punarbas there is just an elevation of the earth and a few meters south of it the uneven”line” of the edge of the jungle. These natural borders can be misunderstood, if someone really wants. Not to misunderstand it much, India had posted its army barracks there, yet the traditional both-sided friendliness caused that people did not take this all much seriously.
Yet then comes a politically sensitive period, and what no one really cared about before, becomes suddenly a crucial issue. India and Nepal is arguing about a mere few meters of soil! Not about villages or big rivers or fields. About a few meters, literally. Because it is more about patriotism, offended pride, domination, than that culvert or that piece of soil. Human habits which never brought happiness in the whole world history.
DOUBLE STANDARD, OR JUST MISUNDERSTANDING?
While the tragic shooting of Govinda Gautam, allegedly by Indian SSB border police brought a big outrage on the side of Nepalis, the killing of 5 Madeshi protesters in the opposite edge of the country, in the Far-East Saptari District, practically during the same time period, had been taken as a necessary outcome of a protest which slipped out of hands. Human lives on both sides (Madeshis are considered expatriate Indians by both sides), yet outrage is one-sided. This is when politics is mixed into humanness. We Westerners have no chance to fully understand the emotions, priorities, perceptions of justice and human rights by the Madeshis and Nepalis involved in political disputes.Thus it never led to any solution when Westerners judged or even tried to intervene to such conflicts.
The only thing we are left with is a question about the spiritual heritage that both India and Nepal are famous for. It is sad that in the land where Buddha is told to be born, Buddha’s own teachings leading to peace and non-violence have no standing. And it is equally sad that the Indian Subcontinent, which is considered to be the place where divine beings like Krishna had been appeared, is not standing as an example of Ahimsa and in general, spiritual tolerance.