New Delhi: It’s a land grab with International dimensions. Thousands of villagers in seven border districts of Bihar have lost their land and homes to encroachers from Nepal – triggering a significant rise in violence and conflict along the state’s border with the Himalayan Kingdom. The land grab, it appears, has its genesis in a warped century old border treaty. The Indian authorities’ inability to ensure pillars demarcating the border stay intact, making it worse.
Rashud Ansari, villager, said, “The land which should be part of Bihar is occupied by Nepal. But all the papers for that land are with India and are from India.”
People residing at the Indo-Nepal border have been crying foul for long. Slowly, the land on the Indian side is disappearing. Farmers here are losing their farm lands, their livelihood, rather everything. The local authorities are well aware about this issue but their hands seems tied down.
Though the 600 Km long open Indo-Nepal border is patrolled by the Sashatra Seema Bal or SSB, pillars demarcating the border are regularly uprooted. Intelligence estimates suggest that 716 International border pillars have disappeared along the Indo-Nepal border. 281, out of that number, are pillars which have been uprooted in Madhubani district, 116 pillars from East Champaran district, 61 pillars from West Champaran and 3 in Araria district.
The SSB agrees that the problem is serious and that it has been escalated to the Central government.
“Boundary has not been demarcated by both countries. Disputes exist in only 7 districts and we have already reported the matter to the Central government through our HQ. Many pillars have gone missing and the State government must look into it,” said Aditya Mishra, Inspector General, SSB.
Ironically, the very basis of setting up these pillars lies in a treaty signed by the British in 1816, declaring the river Mahakali as the border between the two countries. The Sugauli Treaty, as it is know, is meaningless as the river has changed course several times southwards into Indian land.
Suresh Mahto, Farmer, said, “Our village was first settled over there, then they uprooted it and settled it here. Alot of Fighting took place and even, guns were used. It was just too much but it was only after the fighting that they moved.”
With farmers turning landless, literally overnight, most try mass protests, but ultimately end up migrating to bigger towns or work as landless labourers.
“A lot of people here are leaving their homes and are going to other towns because of the amount of problem Nepal is creating in illegally occupying our land,” said Ramesh Kamgaar, a villager.
Though the Nitish Kumar government wrote to the Centre on the issue during its first tenure, the lack of pressure has now only meant continuing misery for Bihar’s border residents.