BY BOM LAL GIRI,Nawalpur, Jan. 28: Local residents of Susta area in Western Nawalparasi have vehemently drawn the attention of the government to resolve the border related issue with India saying that they had been facing oppression and harassment from Indian security forces and encroachment of land due to border dispute between the two sides.
Adam Khan, an officiating president of the Save Susta Campaign, urged the government to promptly address the border dispute in Susta.
He said, “If the government does not manage land in Susta, we will take the matter to the Supreme Court to present our case of grievances and difficulties.”
Kisan Sharma Gaire, an advisor to the Save Susta Campaign, said that they had consulted with the concerned stakeholders and taking advice regarding a petition about this issue.
The locals who had been fighting for their land were in preparation to file a case to make their voices heard by the government.
On one hand, the land dispute in the border area has been dragging for an extended period of time and on the other, many Susta locals fighting for their ancestral land have not been able to obtain their citizenships.
Currently, Susta has a population of 3,133 living in 265 households. However, based on the voters’ list, only 295 individuals in Susta have obtained Nepali citizenship.
Prabhunath Yadav, chair of Ward No. 5 in Susta, said that the government should provide citizenship to the Susta residents through different packages. He said that around 1,600 people in Susta eligible for citizenship had not obtained citizenship.
“You can’t get even a SIM card if you don’t have a citizenship certificate. What else can you do?” questioned Rabindra Jaiswal, a local resident.
“Many youths here are not able to work either in Nepal or in India in absence of citizenship papers. They can’t open bank accounts. They can’t apply for driving license. Who will understand the suffering of Susta populace?, he asked.
Along with citizenship, most of the residents in Susta are not able to receive land ownership certificates either. Susta spans over 40,980 hectares of land. Of this, Indian side is reported to have encroached 14,500 hectares.
Anil Thapa, inspector of Armed Police Force, Nepal border outpost (BOP) in Susta, said that 19,980 hectares of land had been marked as disputed area. Nepal has only been able to utilise 7,000 hectares and among them, only 556 bighas of land are registered in the name of the locals, he added.
Previously, there was a Village Panchayat consisting of nine wards. However, the Panchayat was displaced after the floods in the Narayani River in 1977. Later, India started encroaching from the southern side of the displaced area. Advisor Gaire said that the displaced Nepalis in that area should be repatriated and get their land ownership certificates.
Gaire, who is also the central member of the CPN (Maoist Centre), said that they had formed a Joint Struggle Committee of people living on both sides of the Narayani River to make the Prime Minister aware of the issue. The committee was working to allow Susta residents to live with pride and educate their children, he added.
The residents of Ward No. 5 in Susta Municipality have been actively engaged in the struggle against the border encroachment for a long time. However, their grievances have not been heard and addressed when it comes to exercising their rights within their own country.
Additionally, the locals have endured a lack of education, healthcare and electricity.
Meanwhile, a suspension bridge constructed over the Narayani River to facilitate Susta locals is still under construction. Approximately 90 per cent of the construction work of the bridge with a length of 1.4 kilometres has been completed.
It is expected to be inaugurated in April/May 2024. Somehow, Susta locals have been hopeful after the construction of the bridge which they had been raising nationally.
Devkaran Kalwar, Lumbini Provincial Assembly member elected from Susta, said that he had been taking initiatives to address all the issues faced by the locals.
He said, “I am aware of all issues in Susta. I am working to provide citizenships and land ownership certificates to locals by making practical decisions. I have also prioritised development works. I have raised the issue in the Provincial Assembly. For this, we will coordinate with all three levels of government.”