India slays Nepalese national

On 9 March 2017, Nepalese national Gobinda Gautam age 32 years was killed by firing of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), India’s armed border force personal at Kakhimpur Khiri – Kanchanpur point of Indo-Nepal border amid tension on construction of a culvert by Nepalese local at the disputed border point. After the incident, protest was staged by Nepalese people; outside the Indian embassy at Kathmandu. The funeral of the slain individual was attended by thousands of well wishers. The Nepalese government summoned Indian chargé d’affaires and called for a probe into the slaughter of the Nepalese citizen. Nepalese Prime Minister talked to the Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) and Nepalese Foreign Minister contacted his Indian counterpart, terming the incident as grave and serious. All parties with some degree of variance condemned the incident and termed it a result of Indian interference.

The initial response of the Indian Embassy at Kathmandu was of denial. However, later, Indian NSA and home minister expressed their sorrow over the incident while Indian PM assured of action against the guilty after the completion of an inquiry. The report by the Nepalese Home Minister confirmed that the bullet was fired by SSB personnel.

The incident has sparked anti India sentiments in Nepal where people are seeking redress against the protagonists in SSB. Media coverage of the incidents has targeted Indian SSB’s high handedness and plight of Nepalese people inhabiting border area who often become victims at the hands of SSB. The incident and its aftermath reflect that the anti-India emotions in Nepal that primarily stem out of the sense of subjugation require just a spark to ignite where such instances have been occurring regularly.

Media reports have indicated that according to local residents, the victim Gobinda Gautam of Kanchanpur district in south-western Nepal was hit by shots allegedly fired by SSB personnel after a dispute over the construction of a culvert by Nepalese authorities.

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Despite the ongoing inquiry and measures taken by both sides to control the situation, fresh clashes between Nepalese nationals and SSB personnel were reported at two places only a day after the mortal incident. Several SSB personnel and at least a dozen civilians were injured.

Around 500 Nepalese nationals gathered at Gauri Phanta border check post along the Indo-Nepalese Border at 9 am to protest the unwarranted killing of the Nepalese. A few miscreants on the Nepal side pelted stones at security officials, said Akash Deep, district magistrate of Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh. Stone pelting was also reported in Basahi area, where some security personnel were injured.

People from the Nepal side used sling shots to shoot glass marbles. The situation is reminiscent of the situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), where unarmed youth pelting stones on the Indian forces are killed or blinded with the use of pellet guns.

Another 36 people, including nine SSB personnel, were injured in further clashes. Movement across the border was suspended after the violence.

Gautam’s death created tension in Kanchanpur and hundreds protested outside the hospital where his body was kept. Nepal deployed armed police contingents to control the situation.

It may be remembered that India had earlier blockaded Nepal and was interfering in the process of the formulation of its new Constitution. It is India’s habit to browbeat its neighbours and force them into subjugation. If they fail to kowtow to India, they are subjected to harsh treatment and efforts are launched to destabilise the country until its leaders acquiesce.

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Nepal’s foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi summoned India’s deputy chief of mission, Vinay Kumar, and handed over a “diplomatic note” that sought a probe. The Nepali side asked India to “stop such inimical activates”.

According to an official statement by India, its NSA, Ajit Doval has assured the Nepalese government that India will extend all possible cooperation and requested Nepalese authorities to provide the autopsy report and other information on the incident. Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda has expressed hope that India would take stern action against the guilty after a probe.

Meanwhile, Indian External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, “The government of Nepal is being requested through diplomatic channels to share post-mortem and forensic reports to facilitate the process.”

Local officials from both sides held a meeting and “agreed to maintain peace and order”, he said.

Nepal’s foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat too discussed the incident with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj during a phone call.

Initial reports indicate that Indian officials claim that the Nepalese side began constructing the culvert in an area near border pillar number 200, the status of which is yet to be decided. The dispute began after pillar number 200 went missing some time ago, while the culvert is located in an area claimed by India.

Residents on the Nepalese side said the situation became tense on March 8, after SSB personnel, accompanied by people from the Indian border town of Basahi, allegedly fired in the air.

There are disputed reports into the incident. Lakhimpur Kheri district magistrate Akash Deep states that when he had gone to the border to discuss the matter with Nepalese officials, “thousands of Nepali citizens entered Indian Territory and set up a Nepal flag”.

He said “border forces had to use teargas to disperse them” and denied that any shots were fired.

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SSB commandant Dilbag Singh claims that SSB jawans on duty objected to (the construction)…Following this, Nepalese people gathered there and pelted stones, resulting in injuries to seven SSB jawans and some civilians.

Indian and Nepalese officials agreed after consultations that status quo would be maintained till survey teams of both countries finalised the border. A six-member team comprising officials from both sides will monitor developments and take steps to ease tensions.

The death of Gautam triggered protests in some parts of Nepal that were joined by activists of the ruling CPN-Maoist Centre and opposition parties. Nepalese Home minister Bimalendra Nidhi said Gautam had been declared a martyr and the government will provide his family Rs 1 million as compensation.

Lawmakers from various political parties sought an answer from the government over the incident. They criticised the government for “surrendering” to India and not seeking compensation.

It is unfortunate that India, despite claiming to be a big country, has problems with each its neighbours. The main reason is that India suffers from a superiority complex and wants its neighbours to accept its “superior” role. With Pakistan, India feels exasperated that it fails to become cowed down. No wonder India at times resorts to false flag operations, to implicate Pakistan in heinous terrorism incidents like the slaughter of two of its own soldiers and mutilated their bodies in the Udhampur sector across the LOC. The two victims have been identified by Indian army sources as Naib Subedar Paramjit Singh, a junior commissioned officer (JCO), and Border Security Force head constable Prem Sagar as the dead. Such acts of barbarity at the hands of India must be condemned.

Sultan M Hali
The writer is a former PAF Group Captain-turn-practicing journalist. He contributes to the print media, conducts a TV show and produces documentaries. He may be contacted at: [email protected]

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