Impact of Open Border

Impact of Open Border Between

Nepal and India*

Buddhi Narayan Shrestha ** 


Boundary of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is surrounded by India on three sides and China is situated on the northern border.  Mighty Himalayan range as the natural wall is elongated in between Nepal and China. On the contrary, there is the Indo-Gangetic flood plain, without any natural barrier in the southern frontier of Nepal with India. Mostly mountain ranges, hills, and hillocks are existed on both the eastern and western borderlines of Nepal, adjoined with India. Nepal has its controlled border system with China, whereas open border system is prevalent with India. But Nepal has never experienced closed border system with any of its neighbuoring countries since time immemorial.

 Initiation of Open Border: 

So far as the open border between Nepal and India is concerned, it is not known how and when the system of free movement of people on either side of the border started. However, British India primarily initiated it after the restoration of Oudha Tarai/ Naya Muluk (Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur) to Nepal in 11 November 1860. Free movement in the cross-border area was not prevalent even after the treaty of Sugauli in 1816. Anyone entering into Nepal particularly to the Kathmandu valley and towns of Tarai in general, had to get Rahadani or visa from the district administrations, prior to the restoration of  Naya Muluk by Nepal, as the controlled border system was prevalent during that period. Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 motivated for the openness of the border between two countries. Article seven of the treaty says “The Government of India and Nepal agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territory of  the other the same privileges in the matter of movement and privileges of a similar nature.”


In other aspect if we have a look on the Nepalese perspective, Rahadani or controlled system was on practice till four and half decades ago. This system was unknowingly relaxed after the construction of Tribhuvan highway, which linked Kathmandu to the Indian town Raxaul. The Indian technical personnel constructed it with an assistance of the Government of India. Before the completion of this highway, Nepalese people even going from Nepal to Nepal via Indian territory had to obtain Rahadani permit from Rahadani Goswara, Kathmandu or local/ district office (Gadhi-Gaunda- Goswara).

 Purpose of Open Border System: 

The British Government initiated the India-Nepal border open primarily for two purposes. The first was to maintain unrestricted  migration of the Nepalese hill people for recruitment in the Indian army as British Gurkha regiment. East India Company army men were familiar with the braveness and obedience of the Gurkha fighters and they wanted to make their army battalion stronger. The second factor was to have easy and free access of British and Indian goods into Nepal and to secure raw materials from Nepal to India such as timber and forest products, herbs and medicinal plants, hides and skins etc. In summary, British Government formulated India-Nepal border open to keep Nepal as their market place for their finished goods and as resource country to exploit varieties of raw materials for their factories and industries, including the conversions of honest and raw Gorkhali Nepalese boys into sturdy British Gorkha soldiers.

 Acceleration in the System: 

After the installation of democracy in Nepal in February 1951, it became a major turning point in reinforcing the Nepal-India border open with the accelerated movement of Indians into Nepal. At first, Indians used to come to Kathamandu as politicians and advisors to the Nepalese ministers, as councilor to the administrators, overseers as technical experts, unemployed Indian citizens as teachers in remote area schools even in Kathmandu Valley. After the elapse of time, retailers came to Nepal as whole seller businessmen. Vegetable and fruit vendors even in the narrow lanes of Kathmandu  metropolitan city are the Indians these days. Indian hawkers use to roam and visit every nook and corner of the city to collect old materials as they voice “Khali Sisi, Purano Kagaj (empty bottle, old newspaper.)”  Now these types of general Indian nationals could be found even in the remote hill towns and settlements of Nepal in connection to their livelihood as businessmen and construction oriented workers. Nepalese are also free to go to Indian cities in search of work as guards, domestic workers and restaurant waiters etc. All these phenomena can be cited as Nepal-India open border as it is unique in the world in the sense that people of both the countries can cross the borderline from any point / any time, whether it may be day or night. Single citizen could cross the frontier of both the sides without any record running to and fro so many times a day.


Every object has its two aspects as every coin bears two faces. And every item has its negative and positive impacts. Similaly, Nepal-India open border system has its negative and positive impacts for both the nations. But Nepal has experienced a large percentage of negative impacts in many cases, as compared to India.

If we make an inventory, negative impact outnumbers the positive one for Nepal. Some of the positive aspects of Nepal-India open border system are the easy access, fostering harmony and mutual understanding, maintaining relationship among the people to expand socio-cultural activities etc. The negative or adverse impact may be the border encroachment, criminal cases, anti-social activities, lawlessness, illegal activities, smuggling of goods / drugs and arms, trafficking of girls and narcotics, movements of terrorists etc.

 Positive Impact: 

As we make a list of positive impacts, it may be the followings:

1.      Easy access: The most positive aspect of open border system is the easy movement of people of both the countries. Travelers reach to their destination on time without any obstruction. There is no botheration to show their identification card and it does not need to maintain recording system for the nationals of two countries.

2.      Strengthens relationship:  People to people relation on the frontiers of both sides has been maintained and strengthened due to free movement of people on either side of the border. It has naturally promoted social and cultural relationship among the nationals of both sides through matrimonial relationship as well. Nepalese boys are the son-in-laws of the Indians. Similarly, Indian daughters have been the daughter-in-laws of the Nepalese nationals, being Nepalese and Indian fathers as the father-in-laws each other.

3.      Rescue operation:Prompt services have been offered and provided on either side during calamities and disasters. Some of the examples can be cited, as there was a great fire in the Fikkal town of Ilam district in last February. Fire brigade with fire fighting men from Pashupatinagar, India reached prior to the Nepalese fire brigade teams from Ilam headquarter. Vice-versa was the case that Birganj fire brigade rushed at first to the Indian town Raxaul when there was a fire. This is due to unrestricted border system.


4.      Health service:When there was an epidemic of meningitis in the India town Rupaidia, patients rushed to the Zonal Hospital of Nepalgunj for the treatment. Hundreds of Indian children were survived by the Nepalese doctors in due time. Similarly, Indian children are benefited, when polio vaccine program and distribution of Vitamin-A programmes were launched in Nepalese settlements.

5.      Instant supply of labour:When there is a shortage of local labour in one side during rice plantation and harvesting of crops, labour will be supplied instantly from other side. Harvesting is almost not possible in the frontier of Morang district, without availing the labour from Farvesganj of India.


6.      Competitive Market:There is always a competion between the businessmen of the cross-frontier towns. For example, local people of Birgung go to the Indian town Raxaul for cheap everyday household items. Similary, Indians come to Birgunj to buy cheap Chinese goods and clothes. In addition, the same brand of Liril bath soap and Colgate/ Peposdent toothpaste are sometimes cheaper in the Indian market and in other days the same materials can be obtained in discounted rate in Nepalese towns.

7.      Prompt Supply of food grains and daily stuff:Unrestricted border has made comfortable for the prompt supply of food grains and daily foodstuffs from either side of the territory, where there are shortages. Hundreds of trucks of rice, lentil and beans were procured from India last summer via Belhi-Rupandehi border point during the food grain scarcity in the Nepalese territory. The result was the availability of foodstuff locally in one hand and the roared price of such stuff got down considerably for the benefit of local consumers.

Open border has economically benefited the inhabitants of both sides of the border from the sell and purchase of livestock products, vegetables and daily kitchen stuff in Hat Bazars (open-roof markets) taking place regularly in various days a week in different parts on either side. These are the points of favorable impact on positive side. However, it depends upon a good understanding of the political circumstances of the state govt. of India.

 Negative Impact: 

Current open and unrestricted border system between Nepal and India has created so many adverse impacts and it has emerged many problems. Some of the issues have been mentioned as follows:

1.      Border Encroachment:Aggression of boundary line and encroachment on the Nepalese territory is the by-product of the open border system. People are free to cross the border without any restriction. Some of the inhabitants who reside in the frontier area do not hesitate to destroy and pull off the main boundary pillars. In other cases, no-man’s land (ten-yard width strip) has been encroached by converting into agriculture and construction in so many places. Nepalese territory has been encroached by India so far in fifty-four places having total area of approximately 60,000 hectare. It consists from a small patch /strip to a big chunk of land encroached by the general Indian people and Indian military camp as well. Most notable places of encroachments are Kalapani-Limpiyadhura area by military (37,800 hectare), Susta area (14,850 ha), Mechi riverian area (1,600 ha), Banwasa-Sharada dam area (15 ha), Tanakpur Afflux Bund area (222 ha), Pashupatinagar (40 sq. meter), Luna river bank (1 km width) etc. Similarly, boundary pillars have been shifted to Nepalese frontier and the notables are number 84 and 85 in Thori, 46 in Madanjot, 28 / 29 and 30 in Tribhunnagar VDC and south-western portion of pillar number 120 in Bhadrapur area etc.

2.      Cross-border terrorism: Open border has provided as safe passage to the terrorists. India has been blaming Nepal that Pakistani ISI agents are infiltrating into India via Nepalese territory. But it is the fact that Pakistanis must travel to India at first to come to Nepal, if they use the land route. Most recently Nepalese Maoist terrorists are creating havoc and they are making war with the Nepalese army men and policemen killing so many innocent local people, especially in the hill districts of Nepal. Those Maoist fighters who have been saved as casualties use to cross the borderline and they are taking shelther in the Indian settlements. Most recently five wounded Maoist casualties, who were under treatment in the private hospital at Lucknow, have been arrested by the Indian policemen. Besides, Lucknow Police officer D.B.Bakchhi arrested eight Nepalese Maoist terrorists (with one woman), including the leader Aakash Darlami (Nischal) and handed over them to the adjoined Nepal police post on the 8th of April this year. Local inhabitants of India believe that Maoist terrorists are taking shelter at Kauwapur, Bishanpur, Balarampur and Baharainch of India as they think safe and secure (Gorkhapatra Daily, 22 April ’02). American Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rakka expressed her worrines during her recent visit to India that the Nepalese Maoists are taking shelter in India. United States under its military assistance has proceeded to provide equivalent to 20 million dollars to control the Maoist terrorism in Nepal. (Gorkhapatra Daily, 25 April ’02)

3.      Trafficking of girls:More than five thousand Nepalese girls have been sold annually in the Indian brothels. U.N. Women Development Fund, UNICEF Nepal field office mentions that there is near about two hundred thousand Nepalese girls and women in total in India, They have been compelled to submit their chastity (Gorkhapatra Daily, 20 April ’02). They are as the consuming commodity in the red-light and prostitution areas of Bombay, Calcutta, Darbhanga, Betia, Siligurhi and some other cities of India. All these are due to uncontrolled border system between India and Nepal.

Organization, such as Maiti Nepal is rescuing those girls before and after trafficking. Maiti Nepal has received Rebock Human Award from the U.S, Award of the World Children-2002 in Sweden in recognition of the rescuing movement, conducted against girl trafficking. US Govt. has provided a gratuity of an amount of 200,000 dollars to the movement against girl trafficking.

4.      Illegal import of arms and ammunitions:Various types of guns, fire arms, gun-powder, grenades and its raw-materials, used by the Maoist terrorists have been confiscated by the army men, especially in the western hill districts. These unregistered and unlicensed arms and ammunitions might have been transported illegally because of the weakness of unrestricted border. Nepalese policemen have recovered 1,410 pieces of gelatin, 3,300 detonator and 740 pieces of fuse-wire in Kapilvastu district, just 1.2 km north of Khunuwa Indian border point (Kantipur Daily, 26 November ’01)

5.      Smuggling of goods, material and machinery: There is always a possibility to be transported  market goods and merchandise through the illegal entry points of the border, where there is no custom or police post. The patrolling army men found large amount of illegally imported textiles in the godown of a businessman in Bhadrapur area last year. The Assistant Sub-Inspector of police Dhana Bahadur Tamang at Nainahi VDC of Mahottari district obstructed two stolen Maruti motorcars, having Indian number plates. Car lifters were driving illegally in the Nepalese territory in February 2000. And the drivers of the stolen cars fled  away, while making enquiry.

6.      Smuggle of archeological artifacts:Archeological materials such as ancient bricks and materials of Lumbini area (birthplace of Lord Buddha) have been smuggled to Piparhawa                     of India. Because India is going to construct duplicate structures to draw attention of the world, saying as Buddha was born in India. They are trying to distort the historical facts due to lack of the controlled border system between two countries.

7.      Cross-border crime: Criminal activities such as murder, theft, and rape cases have been increased on the frontier of both the countries due to open border. Criminals make crimes in one frontier and they run there and then to the other frontier without any restriction. There is no means of obstruction to stop the criminal on the spot to enforce him the law of that territory, where the crime has taken place.

8.      Kidnapping: Kidnapping of businessmen and children of well to do family is due to unrestricted  movement in the borderline. Parmeshwor Lal, a businessman of Birgunj municipality was kidnapped and taken to India. Kidnappers demanded Rs. 40 million to release the businessman. But Nepalese DSP was ultimately able to rescue the businessman after 42 days with the help of Indian policemen.

9.      Highjacking:Indian aircraft IC 814 to Delhi was highjacked from Tribhuvan international airport on 24 December 2000. It was ultimately landed at Kandhar, Afganistan and the aircraft with the passengers were stranded for complete one week. People realized that open border is the cause of highjacking. It is to be noted that passport / identification card controlled border system was introduced for the air passengers at Tribhuvan international airport Kathmandu and New Delhi Indiragandhi international airport after the Indian aircraft highjacking incident.

10.  Robbery and theft:Two Indian motorcycle men looted Rs. 200,000 from the local money change counter at Malangwa of Sarlahi district in 5 February 2000. After snatching the money, they rushed and entered into Sonbarsha of Indian territory. The moneychanger complained to the police posts of both the frontiers. But the plunderers were not identified because the border is always open.


11.  Infiltration of Bhutanese refugees: Nearly 100,000 Bhutanese refugees infiltrated into Nepalese territory five years ago. It is to be noted that Nepal and Bhutan are separated by a wide stretch of Indian territory. And Bhutan and India have no open border system. And there is no possibility to enter Bhutanese into Nepal without crossing the Indian territory. It is the fact that Bhutanese refugees had entered at first into Indian territory. But India drove them to Nepal. In reality, the first place of asylum for them was India. It was the responsibility of India to make them settled in India. Instead, India diverted them into Nepal. It was the cause and effect of open border between Nepal and India.

12.  Deforestation and exploitation of medicinal plants and herbs: Indians have exploited Nepalese forest resources illegally. They enter into Nepalese territory time and often and cut hardwood trees and collect rare medicinal plants, herbs and honey without permission from Nepal. They use to sell it in Indian markets as “Nepalese Sal Timber”as the best wood and “Nepal Honey” the best in the region. Two years ago Indian border security force cut the Nepalese forest timber at Darchula area to construct their security post in the west of the river Mahakali.


13.  Peace and Security:General people of Nepal are experiencing that peace and security in the nation is being weak due to free movement of people on either side of the frontier. Third country nationals, as similar face to the Nepalese and Indian may cross the border in the form of Indian/ Nepalese national. It is creating problems to maintain peace and national security in both the nations. It is because of the fact that no identification card has to be produced while crossing the inland border point. Former member of parliament Mr. Mirjadil Sadbeg was fired and murdered by Indian assassinators in Chabahil, Kathmandu in 1998 and crossed the open border in a very short period of time. Also there are incursions of Indian policemen inside Nepal territory without permission in search of criminals, who fled from India to Nepal. Indian policemen created a disturbance in the life and property of the residents of Baneshwor, Kathmandu capital city four years ago. Nepalese security personnel did not know it beforehand because the border is open. This is regarded as lawlessness and anti-social activity in the nation created by the foreigners.

14.  Migration:Density of population in the adjoining districts of India is higher than in the frontier areas of Nepal. So some of the Indian people resembling with the Nepalese faces have migrated to Nepalese territory, being benefited by the unmanaged open border. As a result, migrants tend to obtain Nepalese citizenship certificate from backdoor. Besides, there are so many Indian teachers working in the schools of remote areas of Nepal with a hope to be ultimately the Nepalese nationals.

15.  Pollution on politics:Polluted and spoiled politics have been imported openly from India, especially from Bihar due to unrestricted movement of people on either side of the frontiers. It has created a negative impact on the development of Nepal. Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has expressed that Bihari wind (style) has affected the Nepalese politics within and outside the parliament and open border system is responsible for the circulation of polluted politics in Nepal (Kantipur Daily, 16 August 2000). The use of muscle men for booth capturing and for electoral manipulations on either side of the border during elections is also not uncommon due to thorough passage.

16.  Trafficking of narcotic drugs, encroachment on the Nepalese culture and traditions, leakage in revenue collection, distribution of fake academic certificates, prevalence of anti-social activities, rape cases, construction of dams and embankment submerging the borderline are also the result of thorough passage from the uncontrolled and wanton border.

 Public Opinion:


Kantipur Daily newspaper has made an internet poll to know whether it is necessary to formulate a regulation on the cross border movement for the nationals of Nepal and India. As a result of internet gallop poll, 89.5 % percent (1,053 people) voted for the need of the formulation of regulation, whereas 10.5% percent (111 persons) opined as it is not necessary to change the system (Kantipur Daily, 21 February 2000). Similarly, Media Services International had conducted a voting survey in 15 districts of hill and Tarai areas. 85.5% of the participants voted that it must regulate the border. Among them, 42.9% expressed their opinion in favour of the execution of passport system. In the voting, 44.4% mentioned that both Nepal and India are responsible for uncontrolled border system and negligency in border inspection activity, whereas 40.7% expressed as the weakness of Nepal and 3.8% have taken as India’s weakness for unrestricted system (Kantipur Daily, 3 July 2000). With the result of these polls, we can understand that Nepalese people have expressed their desire in favour of the controlled border system between two countries.

 Concluding Remarks: 

Open border system has created so many problems and it has affected in social and economic aspects for both Nepal and India. The most sensitive issues these days are the free movement of the terrorists and transportation of illegal arms and ammunitions across the open border. This is quite harmful for both the countries. An uncontrolled, unrestricted and opened border constitutes the breeding ground for terriorism, criminal, illegal and anti-social activities. Keeping in view the welfare and development of general people of the two nations, there is an urgent need to manage and regulate the free movement of people. It needs to check and stop transportation of smuggled goods across the unpatrolled open border. The time has been changed much from peacefulness to disturbing and troublesome. General people of both the countries are feeling panicy and fearfulness due to current circumstances in the South Asian region. It has to be made joint efforts to review the impact of open border system through dialogues and negotiations. It must come to the conclusion jointly to make the border restricted for the terrorist, controlled for smugglers, obstructed for the girl traffickers, checked for the criminals, stopped for narcotic holders but managed for the genuine passengers and regulated for legal export and import.


* Published in NAH JOURNAL, Nepalese Association in Houston, Texas, U.S.A., 1 October 2003. 

* * Former Director General of Survey of Nepal and recipient of Madan Puraskar (Prize)-2057.                  


Settling Susta Border Dispute

Settling Susta Border Dispute 

By Buddhi Narayan Shrestha 

Susta is situated on the east of Narayani River in mid-southern part of Nawalparasi district in the pointed portion left over by the floodwater. On its west is the flow of the Narayani river, and it is surrounded by India on the north, east and south by a curved boundary line. One can reach there after travelling about 25 kilometers south-east from Parasi bazaar, the district headquarter to Pakalihawa VDC and another 20 to 25 minutes boat ride across the Narayani River. Susta VDC was merged with the Tribeni VDC in 1980. Presently the area along the banks of the river on the north of Susta has been called ward number 4 of the Tribeni VDC.  The Susta area came within the Nepali territory when the British returned the Tarai region from Koshi to Rapti Rivers on 11 December 1816 instead of paying Rs. two hundred thousand annually, as per Article 4 of the Treaty of Sugauli. The work to erect border pillars along the Susta borderline was started in 1829, and in 1883-84-85 the border map was also prepared.

The map shows the borderline being demarcated from Tribenighat along the mid-current of the Narayani river. When the borderline passes along the river on the south of Susta, the borderline leaves the riverine sector and catches the land boundary. Border pillars have been constructed towards the west and bend towards Sagardinhi village. As a result, the Junge masonry pillar number 1 was constructed at Sagardinhi and the number 2 was in Mangalbari. But no pillar was constructed along the river course. Apart from this, what was more important was that the borderline was demarcated in such a way that the area lying south of Tribenighat lay in India, and the area on the east and west belonged to Nepal. That time, Susta was located west of the Narayani river and was covered with the dense forests.  

Reason of dispute: The change of course by the River is the main reason of dispute in the Susta area. The other reasons are floods, and cutting and felling of the jungles and lack of transportation facility. The Narayani river called Gandak in India, has for hundreds of years been changing its course from east to west. Every time the Narayani river, which separates India on the east and Nepal on the west, cuts its banks on the west as the Nepalese territory gradually shifts inside India as encroachment. There are big floods and thousands of hectares of land shift towards the east of the river all at once. For example, in 1845 the Narayani river suddenly shifted towards the west by cutting Nepal’s territory. Similarly during the massive flood of July 1954, the river shifted towards the west. In 1980 there was another massive flood and the people of Susta had to be shifted to Tribeni. That time too, the river had cut about 100 hectares of land. To date the river has eroded approximately 13,000 hectares of Nepalese land on its western bank. 

Flood hazard: In flood hazards like that of 1954 and 1980, the Narayani river has further eroded its west bank resulting in the encroachment of Nepalese territory by the Indians. Besides, the territory at Madanpur, about two-and-a-half-kilometers from Susta, and the Nepalese territory that had bordered Rampurwa, Notunwa and Bedauli of India, has disappeared and the 6.5-kilometer wide Nepalese territory has been shrunk. As a result, the border pillar number 1 in that area is also missing. 

Fertile Susta: The Susta area is very fertile for agriculture because of the alluvial soil brought by the river. In addition, there was dense forest. Indians came over to Susta to fell down the trees. They illegally transported the timber and wood to India. Later they settled in the area because of the fertile land as it was easier to come from India. By the time number of Indian farmers and timber smugglers began to increase outnumbering the Nepalese who had lived there for ages. There were 162 Nepali families in Susta till some years back. But the number of Indian families who came to settle there had reached more than 200 households. As the number of Indians is more and the area lies east of the river, the Indian population in that area is rising voices to the effect that the area belongs to India.

With the passage of time, Indian nationals have claimed the western flow of the Narayani river as the borderline. At the same time they have also drawn maps at the local level accordingly. In such map some portion of the Narashahi village is also shown within the Indian territory. But Nepal, while preparing its map, has taken the river course of 1817 as the borderline. The topographical maps of that area prepared in 1992-93 with the assistance of Japan International Co-operation agency (JICA) has taken the course of the river in 1817 as the borderline. 

Shifting of river course: Whenever the Narayani River finds a new course cutting Nepal’s territory on the west, India maintains the new course of the river as the boundary and claims the land left behind by the river as its own. Thus, it has been encroaching upon Nepal’s territory. Nepal has been making its stance that the change of its course by the river should not be linked with the boundary line. While Nepal thinks that the borderline should be maintained at the place where the river used to flow at the time when the treaty was signed between Nepal and the British government.

The changed course of the river should not be taken as the basis for the border. India has held the position that wherever the river finds its course that should be taken as the border. This is the crux behind the dispute at Susta. This conflicting thinking and feeling and the dispute they have created can only be solved by adopting the principles used to solve the problems related to the demarcation of the border rivers. The disagreement involves the principles to be applied in setting river boundary demarcation questions. Nepal insists upon the boundary delimited in the 1816 treaty between Nepal and British India, while India proposes that the more generally accepted principle under which the boundary follows the river course should be applied in this case. Although the local officials have been trying to solve this problem for a long time, they have failed to reach a conclusion. As a result, India has not retreated from their mean approach to encroaching upon even the jungle areas of Nepal on the east of the new course of the river.

There were even attempts to solve this problem at the central level, but no basis to solve the issue was found even in 1972, when relations between the two countries were rather warm. The main cause of the conflict is the shifting of the course of the river towards the west by cutting along its banks. The second reason was when the boundary survey was done in 1817 at first and 1829 and in 1884-85, and also in 1922 when the topographical survey was done by the Survey of India, no border pillars were erected on the banks of the river. When the demarcation was made by the British Surveyors the border pillars were erected on the Sector F to G from Uria to the Gandak river starting from the east and it was extended along Someshwor Range, Balmikinagar, Panchanad River to Tribenighat of the Narayani River where the border pillar number 63 was erected near Tribenighat. But from Tribenighat to Susta where the Narayan river forms the borderline along 24 kilometers, no pillar demarcation was made on either side of the river. Demarcation has been done only after the borderline leaves the river on the south of Susta and touches the land boundary in the western sector at Pakalihawa south, where Junge pillars were erected by numbering pillar 1 onwards. This has left room for the disputes along the river areas. 

Principle to settle the dispute: The question is:  which of the two principles – fixed boundary or fluid boundary principle – have to be adopted. The 9th meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee from 1 to 3 January 1988 had agreed to demarcate the riverine sector on the basis of fixed boundary principle. Under this agreement, the demarcation should be made on the fixed boundary principle where the rivers act as the borderline such as in the Narayani areas. According to this principle, the borderline should be fixed along the course the Narayani River as flown in 1816 no matter whether the river flows along that area today or not. But India does not agree to accept that principle in the Susta area. It is to be noted that while in the Mechi river area India has created disputes by erecting new border pillars inside the Nepalese territory, thus, encroaching upon thousands of hectares of land by imposing the fixed boundary principle. But India is unwilling to agree to the same principle in the Susta area.

The flow of rivers in both places is of similar nature. The Mechi river flows from north to south, and in the disputed area of Susta the Narayani river also flows from north to south. But the main point relates to the Mechi banks, the Junge pillars were erected in 1816-18 as border monuments whereas such pillars were not erected on the banks of the Narayani river. Now there is a need to demarcate the border by erecting pillars along the then course the Narayani river. This will end the many decades long dispute forever.  

Confrontation of Nepalese and Indian farmers: It is not only the Indian farmers, Indian labours, who had come during the construction of the Gandak barrage, but Indian timber smugglers and Indian dacoits also have trespassed Susta. At one time it was a safe haven for Indian dacoits. The notorious Indian dacoit Sucha Singh used to hide in encroached area of Susta. Nepal arrested him and he was extradited to India in 1964 after he fled to Nepal when he assassinated the then Punjab chief minister Pratap Singh Kairon. The rise in the number of dacoits had even created a reign of terror in the whole border area. Because the area was encroached upon, there are times when Indian farmers loot and take out the standing crops planted by Nepalese farmers. There were also some rumours of Nepalese cutting down crops planted by Indian farmers in areas where Nepalese outnumber the Indians. There were also times when the harvesting was done under the supervision of Nepalese and Indian policemen.

Thus, it is not only the Nepalese territory but also the standing crops and trees that are encroached. There were also cases when the families of Nepalese ex-army men were settled in Susta area to increase the number of Nepali population. There were also plans to launch the resettlement campaign but it did not succeed. The Nepalese government had provided some facilities to the Nepali families living in Susta area for long. When the cadastral survey was done in 1966, the Nepalese families had failed to get the land-ownership certificate because of lack of proof of their owning the land. But because of the Indian encroachment, a special team was sent in 1975-76 to Susta. Land-ownership certificates were provided to Nepali citizens who have been using the land. They had been provided facilities for seeds and fertilizers. However, no land ownership certificate was issued to those who had no citizenship certificate.  

To stop encroachment and to maintain Nepal’s territorial sovereignty a police post was also established in Susta. Later the post was strengthened with health post and a school for children. Still, the Indian side has not stopped claiming that the Susta area belongs to them. When Nepal tried to manage the settlement by replacing Indian living there illegally, the Indian began staking claim to even more area. This fuelled the dispute further. At times, the area had also become tense because of conflict between Nepali and Indian farmers at the local level.

There were also scuffles and confrontations when Indians tried to get Nepali citizenship by fraud and forgery. Recently Indian Special Security Bureau (SSB) chased the Nepalese families saying as the territory lies under the jurisdiction of Indian State of Bihar. In the mean time SSB insisted to the Nepalese farmers that they will be provided the land ownership certificates from India, if they say the territory is the part and parcel of India. Besides, there is a motto of Indian politicians to distribute the disputed land of Susta to Indian voters to influence the forthcoming election of constitutional assembly in Bihar, which is going to be held in January 2006.   

The problem awaiting solution: There were also attempts to solve the dispute of Susta at the national level. But they had failed when Indians took the negative attitude. At several meetings of the Nepal-India Joint Technical Boundary Committee, the Nepalese side tried to put the Susta dispute on the agenda. But nothing happened except for minor discussion, and the issue has been indefinitely postponed. It now seems that the discussion on this issue has almost stopped. When the joint survey team goes to this sector, the Nepalese side has been unable to do anything except to agree with the Indian that nothing could be done because no agenda or working procedure were fixed or were agreed upon. Local people say that in the season of 1998-99, the joint border team had proceeded to the other sector after making verbal agreement to reconstruct the border pillars damaged or destroyed by the river in the land segment.

The dispute in the Susta area dates back to the disputes of Mechi and Mahakali or encroachments of the Pashupatinagar and Sandakpur, but the Susta dispute has turned into something like a septic wound.  A delegation consisting of three dozens border distressed farmers from Susta have come to capital asking to solve the issue of encroachment. They have submitted applications to the concerned offices requesting to pursue to solve the problem from central government. But nothing has happened till this date. Government agencies especially ministry of foreign affairs must take initiative to settle the disputed issue amicably discussing with the Indian authorities to identify the course of the Narayani River as it was flowed in 1816 AD. 


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