The line of trucks on either side is at least 10-km long, and the road to Nepal has become a narrow path from Ramgarhwa.
“There are more than 2,000 trucks stranded here. We have no information. No one from the Government has come to tell us anything. We don’t know when the agitation in Nepal will end,” said Ajay Tanti, the driver of a Bharat Petroleum tanker who arrived here 12 days ago from Kolkata.
Despite the uncertainty following widespread protests over Nepal’s new Constitution, the situation in Raxaul is calm as officials keep watch on a large group of people gathered in the middle of the bridge that forms the border here.
Madhesi activists have set up tents in the middle, in no-man’s land, blocking the passage. In one tent, a young man is singing, eulogising the Madhesi struggle. The song can be heard and understood on both sides. Nepal police is at Shankaracharya gate, the entrance to Nepal.
“We are in no-man’s land and that’s why we are safe,’’ said Ram Babu Kumar Yadav, president of the Sanghia Samajvadi Forum in neighbouring Bara Zila in Nepal.
“Six of our children were killed in this district — this is where Birganj is located. The Nepali police had come here and tried to push us out. They even fired teargas shells that fell across the border on the Indian side. But once a senior Indian officer came and demarcated the no-man’s land, the Nepali police haven’t come here,” Yadav said.
Scores of young people, who are part of the dharna, have gathered around and started shouting slogans. Yadav said the Madhesis are fighting for their rights. “We are happy that India is playing a very good role,’’ he said, adding that the “blockade won’t be lifted till Kathmandu agrees to give us the same rights that they give to the ‘paharis’ (hill people)”.
Sudhir Kumar, Superintendent, Customs, said they have no role to play in easing this blockade. “We are silent spectators sitting on this side of the bridge,’’ Kumar told The Indian Express.
“There is a dharna on since September 24 and the Madhesi protesters aren’t allowing any vehicles from either side to go through,’’ he said, adding that operations at the border were normal till August 15. “On August 16, they (madhesis) gave a two-days’ protest call,’’ said Kumar.
According to the Customs official, the revenue collected on imports here was usually Rs 25 lakh on an average every day but has now dropped to Rs 5 lakh. “After September 24, everything has stopped. No vehicle has crossed from either side ever since,” Kumar said.
He said that a high-level team of dignitaries are expected here on Wednesday. “We have no idea how this will be resolved. We have been asked to file daily reports,” Kumar said.
The drivers stranded on the road, however, are in a difficult situation. One of them, Ram Dutt from Agra, was pleading with the Madhesis on the bridge.
“There are 50 of us stranded across the bridge on the Nepal side. We were returning after unloading our goods (in Nepal) when we got stuck in this agitation. We are there for a month and eight days now. We have no money, not even to buy food, and our families are worried back home. Please tell the Government to do something for us,” Dutt said.
Dozens of other drivers have similar complaints.
Anup Bhunia of Jhadavpur had driven a Satyam Transports tanker, carrying edible oil, across the border five days ago. “We had to go to Birgunj. It would have taken us a few hours to finish this work. Now we have no idea how long we will be stuck here,’’ he said.
“We know there is an agitation in Nepal. Please tell us whether this dharna will end anytime soon or not,’’ said Rajinder Kumar, the driver of 18-tyre trailer carrying a load of paper from Mansa in Punjab.
“I had to go to Narayangarh but I am stranded here since August 24,’’ he added.
Bijay Singh, a driver from Kolkata, said they can’t abandon their vehicles and return, either. “There are tankers full of fuel stranded on the road. We hope nothing goes wrong,” he said.