According to official records, Nepal covers a total area of 147,181 Sq km. But in reality, the territory of Nepal is gradually shrinking thanks to increasing encroachment by India that has put the sovereignty of Nepal at stake.
The reports prepared by Buddhi Narayan Shrestha renowned border expert after thorough survey make it evident that India has encroached about 59,970 hectares of Nepali territory at 54 points in 21 districts adjoining India in the east, west and South. But if the areas affected by the unilateral activities of our southern neighbor such as construction of dams and irrigation projects are considered as encroachment, which according to researcher Phanindra Nepal, we should, the number increases to 85 points.
Among the encroached areas, the much disputed Kalapani-Limpiyadhura area with 372 sq km (37,800 hectares) is the largest chunk of Nepali territory encroached by India. The encroachment started right after the India-China border war of November 1962. After facing defeat, the Indian army set up a camp inside Nepal’s territory of Kalapani to keep an eye on Chinese activities. But now, they claim the area belongs to India.
The Treaty of Sugauli (1816) has clearly mentioned that the River Mahakali is the borderline of Nepal-India. The crux of the issue in dispute is the determination of the origin of the river Mahakali. “The maps of 1850 and 1856 prepared by the Survey of India with the participation of Nepalese authority clearly states that the river originates from Limpiyadhura, 16 km northwest of Kalapani, which proves that Kalapani belongs to Nepal,” says Shrestha.
But the Indian side refuses to accept those maps as proof. They say that the map prepared by them in 1875 should be considered as proof as it was scientifically prepared. But what is remarkable is that the map does not have Nepal’s certification. According to the map, the river Mahakali’s origin is Lepulek.
In recent times, the Tribeni-Susta situated on the east of Narayani River in the mid-southern part of Nawalparasi district is the most tense area owing to encroachment.
Just a few weeks ago, some Indians invaded Nepali territory in Susta and burnt down all the sugarcane.
About two months ago, over 1000 Indian villagers backed by Indian Border Police Force (Seema Sashastra Bal) SSB had forcibly entered Nepalese territory in Susta. They completely destroyed the sugarcane in about 10 hectares of land and also manhandled men and women.
According to locals of Susta, such incidents are rampant in the area. Sometimes, they send Bihari miscreants to chase away Nepalis from their homes while sometime the Indian police cross the border and manhandle Nepalis on the pretext that they are searching for Munna Khan, an Indian gangster, who was once used by the Indian side to create disorder in Susta, says Shrestha.
Nepali farmers initiated the “Save Susta Campaign” to safeguard Nepalese territory but how long can they stop the Indian side is the question. They say they appealed to Nepalese authorities several times to take necessary action but the authorities are turning a deaf ear to them.
Experts say the changing course of the Narayani River is the main reason behind the dispute. Over the decades, the Narayani River has been changing its course toward the Nepalese side in the west, and the Indians have been trying to capture Nepalese territory. India has so far grabbed about 13,500 hectares of Nepalese land because of this.
The other most talked about point of dispute is Mechi. India’s disapproval of Masonry Pillars popularly known as Junge Pillars as the main boundary pillars had sparked the Mechi Border dispute.
The map published in January 1818, right after the Sugauli Treaty, shows the Junge Pillars as the main boundary pillars. More importantly, history is evidence that British had erected those pillars as monuments of the Nepal-India border.
But the Nepal-India Joint Technical Border Committee adopted the Persian Map (Urdu script) of 1874 as the reference material, which was provided by the Indian side.
Because of the Nepali side’s wrong decision accepting the Persian Map as the basis of demarcation, a total area of 1630 hectares of land has fallen on the Indian side.
Why does India encroach Nepal’s land?
Experts are of the view there could be multiple reasons why India eyes Nepali land.
If Phanindra Nepal is to be believed, India wants Kalapani area primarily to keep an eye on the Chinese, Pyaratal for its biological diversity, and a large part of terai land for agriculture,” says Nepal. He also says it cannot be ruled out that a power and water hungry India is eyeing Nepal’s rivers.
Shrestha also believes that the main reason for encroachment is that India wants to meet the demand for settlement and agriculture for its ever growing population.
What needs to be done to stop encroachment and solve dispute?
According to Shrestha the issue can no longer be solved though bilateral meetings as India is not paying heed to Nepal’s point of view. “The issue must be taken to the United Nations as India is not responding to Nepal’s call for bilateral meeting,” says Shrestha.
But Phanindra Nepal is of the view that lack of sincerity and patriotism are the main drawbacks of the Nepali side while negotiating with their Indian counterparts. He also says collective effort is needed to face the Indian side strongly. “Because of the news carried by the media, government deployed security personnel in Susta area on 28 October,” he adds that media should carry border dispute news more frequently.
Besides, civic society must also pressurize the government to take necessary steps soon, he adds.
But we are virtually doing nothing to stop the encroachment and to resolve the existing dispute. Researchers like Shrestha and Nepal say there are so many such points where not even one security personnel has been deployed to guard our territory and citizens.
Altogether, 27 Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee meetings have been held in the last 25 years but they have not yielded any result yet.
Nepaleyes tried to get comments from concerned government officials on the outcomes of those meeting and what the Nepali bureaucracy was planning to do to resolve the dispute, but none them could be reached despite repeated attempts.
By Reagan Shrestha