Updated: June 14, 2020 7:31:15 am
In the last two months, there have been at least eight incidents of altercation between the Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) and civilians on the Indian side in Bihar’s border districts of Sitamarhi, East Champaran, Madhubani and Kishanganj.
Even on Friday, when firing by the APF killed a villager in Janaki Nagar in Sitamarhi, a police officer had brokered peace following a clash in East Champaran. Wednesday had seen a clash at a spot barely 1.5 km from the Janaki Nagar incident.
The clashes come amidst rising India-Nepal tension over some border areas.
The APF on Saturday morning handed over the Janaki Nagar villager whose capture had led to a clash and firing on Friday, leading to the death of another villager, 23-year-old Vikash Rai, and injuries to two.
Subscriber Only Stories
On Wednesday, the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) had stepped in to resolve matters after the APF beat up a resident in Lalbandi near Janaki Nagar. Thursday had seen stone-pelting between residents of two villagers on either side of the border after a Chandraman resident was allegedly beaten up by the APF in no-man’s land a few days ago.
Friday’s incident in East Champaran was resolved after Mahuawa Police Station in-charge Uday Singh stepped in following a clash between the residents of Sanphulwa village in Nepal and Chandraman on this side.
Last month, on May 7, the APF deployed in Bara district of Nepal had opened fire to stop residents of Navgachhia village in Mahuawa, who wanted to access their fields on the other side. No one was injured in the incident, and the tension finally abated after senior authorities from both sides intervened.
May 16 night had seen another incident of firing along the Indo-Nepal border, in Kishanganj’s Karuamani panchayat area. A meeting was held to resolve the matter.
The next day, a Raxual villager had been fired upon by the APF following an argument. The villager had reportedly crossed the border to collect an LPG cylinder.
Authorities on the Indian side have said the Sitamarhi firing on Friday too was a case of local misunderstanding, and not linked to the border row.
Amidst mourning over Vikesh, who leaves behind a pregnant wife, villagers of Janaki Nagar Saturday accused the SSB of not doing anything to prevent the incident, despite being posted nearby.
Ram Lagan Rai, who was handed over to the Sitamarhi administration by the Nepali authorities following high-level intervention, showed his ribs and waist to say he was beaten by the APF personnel while in custody.
Asking how he was at fault, Ram Lagan said, “My wife is from Nepal, my daughter-in-law is from Nepal. They had gone to meet their parents after due permission from the APF. It urged them to conclude the meeting in five-10 minutes. As my son Shatrughan resisted, he was slapped by an APF jawan.”
Ram Lagan said the APF behaved like it did because of “the distrust between India and Nepal intensifying” over the border areas controversy.
Sanjeet Kumar Yadav said the village has close links across the border. According to him, over 60% youths in the village are married to women from the other side, while 30% of the women here are married into families across the border. “Since the lockdown, it has been very frustrating as we are not being allowed to meet our kin. This has built tension, with the map controversy making it worse.”
People from both sides also own land across the border, like in several other villages in eight Bihar districts in the region. The lockdown has meant they have not been able to go to their fields.
Villagers said two SSB jawans were barely 500 metres away when Vikesh was shot, and did not intervene. His uncle Santosh said, “The SSB is there to secure the border. How can the Nepal police enter our area and the SSB do nothing?”
An SSB officer, however, said Janaki Nagar villagers “had not taken the SSB into confidence and perhaps tried to settle the issue themselves”. He added that the porous border was difficult to manage, with rampant smuggling of liquor, apart from arms and narcotics.
SSB, IG, Sanjay Kumar told The Indian Express: “The SSB was not informed about the incident. Our forces were 1.5 km from the spot. We were still the first responders. We later spoke to the APF, which conceded it was panic firing. We are trying to normalise the situation and have intensified patrolling.”
Sitamarhi Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar said they had also increased patrolling in the area. Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey said all Bihar districts bordering Nepal were on alert.
An SSB Commandant said, “There have been three similar incidents along Madhubani border in which Indian civilians clashed with the APF. There is surely unease but things are very much under control.”
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.