A 19-year-old student from Darbhanga in Bihar was killed Monday after Nepal police opened fire near the border to prevent Madhesi protesters from retaking a bridge that demarcates the Raxaul-Birgunj border between the two countries.
Indian authorities had cleared the bridge for polling Sunday but tents put up by Madhesi protesters were not removed. This was the first time when the bridge was cleared — 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 since August.
“The 19-year-old who was killed in firing by Nepal police is an Indian citizen. His name is Ashish Kumar Ram and he was living in Raxaul with his maternal grandfather Ashok Ram who is an employee of the BSNL,” Raxaul Deputy Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kumar told The Indian Express.
“We don’t have a lot of information regarding the circumstances. We have been told by witnesses that he was killed very close to the border on the Nepal side. He was going to Birgunj on a visit. Ghoomney ja raha tha.” Kumar said the body hasn’t been handed over to the Indian side yet.
The deceased was identified after a phone call was made to his maternal uncle from his mobile, police said.
WATCH: Nepal Police opens fire on Madhesi protesters in Raxaul, one Indian man killed. pic.twitter.com/ULsVy3SVvq
— ANI (@ANI_news) November 2, 2015
Sources said the body is likely to be brought Tuesday. Residents said Ashish was from Darbhanga and had come to study in Raxaul where his maternal grandfather was posted.
Hours after the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up his Nepal counterpart K P Oli. He sought details from Oli even as South Block summoned Nepal’s envoy Deep Kumar Upadhyay.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said: “The Prime Minister has expressed shock and condemned the unfortunate killing of a youngster from Bihar due to police firing in Nepal.” During the phone conversation, Modi expressed concern over the incident and requested for details, it said.
Modi assured Oli that there was no obstacle from the Indian side on supply of fuel and other essentials. “At the same time, the Prime Minister urged Nepalese leaders to work towards ensuring an early and effective solution to the crisis,” the PMO said.
The Ministry of External Affairs told Nepal’s ambassador that it was “deeply concerned” over the Birgunj incident. Upadhyay was also told that “issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved by force” and that “the causes underlying the present state of confrontation need to be addressed by the government of Nepal, credibly and effectively”.
Vikas Swarup, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said Indian freight forwarders and transporters voiced worries again Monday about the deteriorating situation across the border. “We are advising them to exercise caution and not put themselves in danger. We are monitoring the situation carefully,” he said.
At the Raxaul border, as soon as authorities cleared protesters from the bridge for polling day and sealed the border, Nepal authorities too sealed their end of the bridge to prevent protesters from reassembling there.
Once the border was opened after polling, the protesters managed to gather, especially because several among them were on the Indian side. Early Monday morning, Nepal police dispersed the protesters.
Krishna Patel, Nepal Sadbhawana Party’s Parsa district head, who was one among the protesters allowed to camp on the bridge on polling day, was there when the Nepal police cracked down. “It was still dark when a large group of 200-300 Nepalese policemen came and started hitting the protesters. There were around 50 people on the bridge at that time. We were sleeping in the tents. We ran across to the Indian side. Several of our people were injured in the lathi charge,’’ he said.
“Our people started protesting once they heard on the FM channel that we were beaten up and our tents had been removed by Nepal police. Nepalese authorities started using force and even clamped curfew in Birgunj and surrounding areas. A large group of protesters tried to reach the bridge and were stopped by police. There was stone-pelting and police fired at an Indian boy who was returning from Birgunj. They thought he was Madhesi. He was shot in the head and was killed,” Patel said.
Around 500 Madhesi protesters managed to assemble on the bridge again and have pitched new tents in the no-man’s land area. On Monday night, the border remained closed from both ends.
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