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India-Nepal tensions: Social ties hit along border; families separated

Roti aur Beti relationship with Nepal for decades; never saw such an ugly situation

Agency Report | Patna | 14 September, 2020 | 11:00 PM

The coronavirus pandemic and currently frayed relations between India and Nepal create an unprecedented situation for people living in border districts of Bihar that has affected social and family ties.

Over the decades, people of the two countries have developed social and trade relationships including through inter-marriages across the border. But the tensions between the two nations have even led to cancellation of many marriages recently.

Many people are living alone in districts such as Motihari, Bettiah, Sitamarhi, Raxaul, East and West Champaran as their wives and children who went to Nepal before the lockdown are unable to return.

Rameshwar Thakur, a resident of Bettiah is one such person who is living alone while his wife and 3-year-old daughter are stuck in Birbhum town in Nepal.

“I have tried thrice to go to Nepal through road route but security personnel at the check post have turned down my request. I have also attempted to cross the Nepal border at night, but lost the way after walking 16 km. Since then, I never tried going into Nepal.

Monika Sharma, a resident of Motihari said: “Being a native of Birbhum, I tried to walk into Nepal to meet my brother on Raksha Bandhan but failed. I returned to Motihari due to severe fever. I have walked 22 km but did not reach the main road heading toward Birbhum town in Nepal.”

She added: “It was a painful experience for me. Both governments should look after social issues of both the places.”

Rahul Sahani, a resident of Bettiah said: “I was deprived from seeing my four-year-old son and wife for 9 months due to strictness at the border. Video calling is the only option I have to see them. Every time I have conversation with them, my son makes me emotional while saying that ‘when will you come Papa’.”

Intrestingly, the issue on both sides is beyond the control of Bihar government. It is a national issue and the Centre has to sort out this problem. People of both countries do not required visa or passport for travelling between the two nations.

Akhilesh Kumar Singh, spokesperson of BJP Bihar unit, pointed out that Bihar has had “Roti aur Beti” (Livelihood and family) relations with Nepal for many years.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and interference of China in Nepal is one issue responsible for strictness at border but at the same time we have to look into it in the past. The foundation of the tussle was actually laid way back in mid-1980s when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. He stopped some of the aid to Nepal. From then on, Nepal looked for other options and Pakistan and China indirectly interfere in Nepal,” said Singh, who is also a native of Motihari.

“Since then, Nepal become a smuggling route for illegal weapons, contraband and fake currency into India where Pakistan and China are involved,” he said.

However, Kumar Rahul Singh, RJD general secretary categorically denied the allegations levelled by the BJP.

He says “Such an ugly situation arose on the border due to failure of the Modi government which was unable to handle a tiny country like Nepal.”

“We have ‘Roti aur Beti’ relationship with Nepal for decades and we have never witnessed such an ugly situation where Nepalese army and police opened fired at us. It is happening on the border in the last six to seven months after China went on the offensive. China also interfered in Nepal and pushed it in such a direction that Nepal becomes anti-India and local civilians of Bihar are the sufferers,” the RJD leader said. (IANS)