Updated: November 4, 2015 9:30:50 am
A day after Ashish Ram, a 19-year-old student from Darbhanga, was killed on the Nepal side of the Miteri (Friendship) bridge after Nepal police opened fire, Raxaul remained tense on Tuesday. It took almost 30 hours for the body to be returned from a hospital in Birgunj to Raxaul.
According to reports, Ashish was shot in the head. Amid fears of violence, the funeral procession was short, marked by anti-Nepal slogans.
His family claimed the authorities in Nepal wanted them to sign a letter stating that Ashish was among the protesters on the bridge. For a couple of months now, Madhesis, protesting against the new Constitution of Nepal, have been on a sit-in on no-man’s land in the middle of the bridge that demarcates the Raxaul-Birgunj border between the two countries.
“They tore up the letter we gave stating that he was returning after meeting friends in Birgunj. They wanted a letter from us stating that he was among the protesters,” said Mahendra Ram, the boy’s grandfather. Ashish was visiting his family in Raxaul.
After frantic negotiations, the letter did not have to be signed.
The protesters said they belong to nobody. “We are independent, we have nothing to do with India,” said Nur Alam Ansari, who was on the bridge when Nepal police cracked down at 4.50 am on Monday.
“But we have relatives in India. We even set the Chinese flag on fire. We are not among those in Nepal who want to abuse Modiji after he gave us 10 years’ worth of food during the earthquake,” said Srinarayan Sah.
Indian authorities had cleared the bridge for polling Sunday, after coming to an understanding with the protesters. When the protesters tried to return to the bridge, the Nepal police barred their entry. “About 60 of us crossed the river on foot and got back on the bridge from the Indian side,” said Dhurendra Patel. He claimed the Nepal police set fire to their tents.
Ashish was shot at around 1:30 in the afternoon. “We had retreated to no-man’s land (30 feet on either side from the middle of the bridge) after setting tyres on fire. There was stone-pelting; the police used tear gas. Then they began shooting,” said Patel.
Echoing Sah, Purnima Bharti, East Champaran president of BJP’s Mahila Morcha, said: “The Nepal government should show some gratitude to us after we helped them with so much food during the earthquake.
BJP leader Mahesh Agrawal admitted his party’s support to the Madhesi cause — he runs the community kitchen for the activists. “Five more days and we could have ended this. A soft landing for all sides concerned,” he said.
“The Nepal government would have agreed to two of the three Madhesi demands and kept the part about redrawing boundaries in suspended animation by leaving it to a commission,” he said.
Ashish was shot barely 100 metres from where Sabya Khatun stood on Tuesday afternoon. She was returning from Raxaul with a 10 kg bag of rice and another bag of eggplant on her head.
“Let them shoot me,” she said. “Everything is so expensive in Nepal now. I have to walk to Raxaul everyday,” she said.
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