For over two months now, the border crossing of India with Nepal at Raxaul and Birgunj – the city just across the border in Nepal – has been blocked. The blockade at this border, which accounts for more than 70% of the trade through India, has caused enormous shortage of fuel, food and other essential supplies, leading to severe hardship for the people of Nepal. It has been reported that thousands of trucks carrying vital supplies to Nepal from India are stuck at the border.
Nepal, being a land – locked nation, has to depend primarily on road transport through India and China for all goods coming into the country as well as for all exports. Nepal’s Prime Minister Shri. K. P. Sharma Oli and other top functionaries of the Nepal government have squarely blamed the Indian state for the present situation and denounced the continued blockade of key border points by India as being “more inhuman than a war”. They have compared the present blockade to a similar blockade on Nepal imposed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989, which too had led to immense hardship for the people of Nepal.
According to news reports, due to the blockade, vital social services have been disrupted, hospitals have run out of essential drugs and supplies, and over 1.6 million children have been deprived of schooling over the past two months. The economy has been devastated, industries have been forced to shut down. Tourism has been severely disrupted. There are food shortages all over Nepal.
The Indian state has officially denied any role in the blockade. However, there is ample evidence to the contrary, as observed in the ‘go-slow’ at custom checkpoints, the refusal by the Indian Oil Corporation, the monopoly supplier, to load fuel tankers from Nepal, and reports in the Indian press that the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the paramilitary force that monitors the 1,700 km border, has been asked to block shipments and enhance scrutiny of vehicular and personnel movement.
The blockade of Nepal began immediately after the Constituent Assembly of Nepal promulgated a new Constitution on September 20, 2015, nine years after the overthrow of the Monarchy. Some political forces of Nepal active amongst the Madhesi people who inhabit the Terai region of Nepal bordering India had expressed opposition to this Constitution. This is purely an internal matter of Nepal. However, the Indian state, instead of allowing the Nepalese people to resolve their own problems, has been brutally interfering. It has been using its open and hidden agencies within Nepal to further inflame the situation within Nepal. It is pretending to be concerned about the Madhesi people of Nepal. The reality is that it is cynically and cold bloodedly exploiting their grievances to further its own hegemonic aims with regards to Nepal.
Throughout this nine year period of Nepal trying to formulate its own Constitution, the Indian state continuously interfered in this process. India served as a guarantor for agreements between the parties representing Nepal's plains and hill communities during the 2008 and 2013 constituent assembly elections. In the run up to the declaration of the new Constitution as well as after its promulgation, the Indian state stepped up its pressure and attempts to influence the provisions of the Constitution. Top officials of the government such as the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar dashed to Kathmandu to talk to the main political parties of Nepal and the parties representing the Madhesi and Tharu communities. Several attempts were made by the Indian state to further delay the Constitution, claiming that it discriminates against the plains’ communities.
Even after the new Constitution was promulgated, the Indian state continued to be publicly critical of it. While neighbouring countries Pakistan and China were prompt in congratulating the Nepal government and people on the occasion, the Indian state pointedly cold-shouldered the event. In fact, the official acknowledgement of Nepal’s new Constitution by the Indian government followed several days later.
The Indian government is also reported to have complained to the United Nations Human Rights Commission about alleged human rights abuses in Nepal. On the other hand, a coalition of Nepali citizens – including diplomats, journalists, women’s rights leaders, medical doctors and former U.N. officials are reported to have called on the United Nations to take effective steps to help remove the economic blockade imposed on Nepal. They are reported to have pointed out that the de facto economic blockade of the past two months by India has resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis in Nepal. Nepal, they said is being penalised by India for adopting a constitution through an elected, representative, inclusive Constituent Assembly.
The Indian state has always considered neighbouring countries like Nepal to be its “backyard” and has always brutally interfered in the affairs of these countries, to ensure that the governments of these countries follow the bidding of the Indian government. It does not recognise the sovereignty of these countries and their right to conduct their own affairs without interference from outside forces. It has resorted to blockade of the border and other arm-twisting methods to pressurise the government and people of Nepal into accepting the hegemony of the Indian state. For this reason the Indian state is widely disliked by the people of Nepal and those of most of the neighbouring countries.
The Indian working class and people have very long-standing and close ties with the people of Nepal. Nepal is a sovereign country and the people of Nepal have the right to conduct their own affairs and to resolve their internal matters without outside interference. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar condemns the blockade imposed on Nepal by the Indian state and demands that it be lifted immediately!