Indian firing on Bhutanese refugees: UN condemns violence


Kathmandu : The UN agency supervising the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal Wednesday condemned the violence on the India-Nepal border that left a Bhutanese student dead as Indian border security forces prevented thousands of refugees from marching to Bhutan.

Support TwoCircles

"The UN refugee agency is extremely concerned over a violent confrontation on the Mechi bridge, that divides Nepal and India, between marching refuges and Indian police and is saddened over the death of one refugee and several injured," said Abraham Abraham, chief of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Nepal.

On Monday, after remaining in closed camps in Nepal for nearly two decades following their eviction by the Bhutan government, thousands of Bhutanese refugees began a "Long March" to exercise their right of return to their own country.

However, the peaceful march by unarmed refugees, a large number of whom were woman and teens, turned violent on Tuesday, when India's Seema Suraksha Bal tried to rein them with baton charge and then resorting to firing, killing Class 11 student Shah Bahadur Dewan.

"We are indeed extremely concerned by the latest developments and fully understand the increasing frustration of the refugees about the lack of progress on repatriation," Abraham said.

"There is no justification for such violence and loss of life. This is a terrible tragedy."

The UNHCR rushed representatives to the border town of Kakarbhitta Wednesday to assess the situation there, together with a medical team.

The UN agency also appealed to all refugees to return to their camps.

Meanwhile, the situation in the seven camps in Jhapa and Morang districts, where two refugees died in Nepal police firing this week, was reportedly calm Wednesday with the government lifting the indefinite curfew imposed since the violence broke out.

"For security to prevail and for normalcy to return it is paramount that the civilian character of the refugee camps is maintained," Abraham said.