Key India-Nepal border post open, trucks cross after 5 months

Residents on both sides set ablaze tents that were being used by UDMF activists to block vehicular traffic

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Kathmandu | Published:February 6, 2016 7:36 am
neapl, nepal india, india nepal, india nepal border, india nepal trade, nepal india border, nepal india trade, india news, world news Residents cross a bridge at the border in Birgunj, Nepal, on Friday. (AP Photo)

The Raxaul-Birgunj checkpost, that accounts for more than two-third supply of goods between India and Nepal, seemed to be back in business after a gap of five months as vehicles carrying goods found their entry smoothly into Nepal.

The unobstructed flow of vehicles began in the afternoon as business people from both sides set on fire the tents along the no-man’s land being used by activists of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) to obstruct vehicular movements to press their demands — better rights and space in the constitution — since the second half of September.

“We hope that this will lead to restoration of business and movement from both sides to normal level,” Keshab Bhandari, Assistant District Chief of Paras district said. The government of India had refused to provide customs clearance for facilitation of goods to Nepal citing “safety reasons” in view of the alleged border “blockade” and resultant anger in Nepal over it.

“Trucks are moving smoothly,” Nepali police official Habendra Bahadur Bogati told Reuters. “We hope that it will be normal. But we can’t say if this will continue.”

The blockade that resulted in acute crisis of fuel and other essential commodities, including life-saving medicines, in Nepal had visibly fuelled anti-India feelings in the Himalayan nation, with Prime Minister K P Oli insisting he would not be able to visit Delhi in the “as it is condition” despite an official invitation extended from India.

The Nepal government had amended the constitution accommodating some key demands raised by the UDMF which it said were “too little”.

The blockade of the checkpost, however, continued as only few “thelas”, half-a-dozen goods carrying trucks and about a dozen new tractors made their way into Nepal during the past one week.

On Friday, one protest leader said residents on the Indian side of the border removed the barriers and sent trucks into Nepal at a time when there were no protesters on the bridge. “We have asked our supporters to stop the flow of traffic without resorting to violence,” said Sarbendra Nath Shukla of the Tarai Madesh Loktantrik Party, a part of the UDMF. “Confrontation will not solve the problem.”

However, Friday’s resumption remained unobstructed, injecting hopes that things were moving towards normalcy. Ruling coalition leaders, including Prime Minister Oli and Maoist Chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, welcomed the resumption of supply from the crucial checkpost. Both spoke separately to Front leaders and promised that they can talk about contentious issues, mainly demarcation of proposed federal units.

Incidentally, the blockade was lifted at a time when Nepal’s Army Chief General Rajendra Chhetri is on a visit to Delhi, mainly to receive the Honorary General’s title of the Indian Army as part of the reciprocal arrangement between the two countries.

With inputs from Reuters