Indian encroachment triggered Nepal violence, says ethnic leader


Kathmandu: The general strike called Sunday by Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas after six people were killed in clashes between security forces and squatters in the far west of the country was caused by continuing Indian encroachment in Nepal, a Nepali ethnic leader has alleged.

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Raj Kumar Lekhi is the chief of the Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha, an organisation of ethnic Nepalis who could be the descendants of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The Tharus, who were among the first settlers of the Terai plains in southern Nepal, were later displaced by waves of migrants from Nepal’s hill districts as well as India, displaced from their own land and becoming bonded slaves.

Kailali, the remote and disadvantaged district in far-west Nepal where the violence occurred Friday after security forces began removing squatters, is among the original homeland of the Tharus. While condemning the violence and killings, Lekhi said the Tharus were angered and concerned by the planned encroachment on traditional Tharu land by settlers from the hills and India.

Indians crossing the border were obtaining Nepali citizenship illegally in connivance with political parties and passing themselves off as Madhesis – Nepalis of Indian origin – in a bid to grab Tharu land, Lekhi said.

The Tharus, who have been at loggerheads with the Madhesis, fear that the government’s recent drive to issue citizenship to people living in the plains for several generations, would boost the Madhesi population in the plains and reduce them to a minority.

The government’s decision to restructure Nepal into a federal republic with autonomous states has become a task fraught with pitfalls in the Terai where besides Madhesis and Tharus, Muslims as well as the Chures, a community living around the Chure Bhawar mountain ranges in the Terai, have been demanding separate states for their communities.