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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13 Responses

  1. Oh wait. Yes, I have. I’m sorry, but I just don’t have it in me right now to type it all out again. Besides, it was just ramblings anyway. You didn’t want to hear me go on and on about this, right?

  2. I would like to hear you. Please type your expressions. I would me more than happy to read it and I shall try to response. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

  4. susta is of nepal

  5. Yes, certainly. Susta is located at Nawalparasi District.

  6. susta is the place of nepal and we should make effort to get it back from government level and also from each n every individual nepalese level

  7. this is gud information that every nepalese should know.and you should further enhance more effective programmes to aware the nepalese about this type of boarder dispute.

  8. Thank you very much.

  9. Let us try from all the corners.

  10. I am very much inspired by your words. Thank you for it.

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