Indian gang spreads terror in Nepal border


Kathmandu : Khurshid Alam, a small-time businessman running a battery shop in the frontier town of Birgunj, Nepal's industrial hub, made a small error in judgement and almost ended up paying with his life.

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Alam's Trishul Battery Shop in Pratima Chowk, a busy area in the town, was located in the same house as Pappu Constructions, a building company whose owner Hari Narayan Rauniyar had been receiving threatening calls from a criminal gang, asking him to pay up or face consequences.

On Monday, after an alarmed Rauniyar had fled to capital city Kathmandu for security, two men riding a motorcycle pulled up in front of the house.

Finding their quarry had fled, the enraged gunmen fired at the battery shop, hitting Alam and a mechanic, and scattered several pamphlets serving as a warning for other businessmen.

The pamphlets, written in Hindi, claimed the shooting was the handiwork of the gang of Indian Munna Sharma.

Sharma, whose actual name is Manoj Sahani, is currently behind bars in Motihari jail in India's Bihar district.

The little prison has become a source of terror for businessmen and affluent professionals in Nepal's border towns with jailed dons allegedly carrying out extortion, abduction and killings in Nepal by remote control.

Earlier, another inmate of the prison, Chhotelal Sahani, had unleashed a reign of terror in Birgunj. His henchmen carried out shootings in broad daylight on his orders although he was behind bars.

Though Sahani's dramatic murder in court by a rival last month made Birgunj heave a sigh of relief, the respite has proved to be only temporary.

According to the Indian Consulate in Birgunj, there have been at least five criminal incidents in Birgunj in the past one-week.

On June 4, the Munna Sharma gang attacked the Sonali tractor show room in the heart of the city, after its Marwari owner ignored threats. One person died in the gun attack while three were injured.

On June 7, two crude bombs went off near a temple at Mysthan Chowk, also in the heart of the city, injuring two passers-by.

On June 9, a gang of former Maoists, the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha led by Jwala Singh, opened fire in the Jagannathpur area, injuring one person.

The same day, robbers raided a house in Parsa district, killing the owner, Salim Miyan, when he tried to stop them.

On June 10, two bombs went off at the Birgunj bus park, injuring one person.

Last week, Ganesh Lat, president of the Birgunj Chambers of Commerce and Industries, met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and home minister Krishna Prasad Koirala, urging them to step up security in the border areas.

Lat said businessmen have been leaving Birgunj due to the deteriorating security situation but no one wants to talk about. Such is the fear pervading the region.

Besides Indian gangs, the Terai plains have become a free for all area for armed groups mushrooming by the day.

Last month, reports said there were at least nine groups operating in the plains, two of them being former Maoists who have now made it to the US government's list of terrorist organisations.

However, new outfits have been cropping up since then, with a virtually unknown band, the Terai Bagis, claiming responsibility for the bus park blasts.

With former US president Jimmy Carter arriving in Nepal Wednesday to discuss the November election with Nepali parties, government officials and the Maoists, his Carter Center, that has opened office in Kathmandu to monitor the poll, warned this month of the lack of security in the plains.