By Neha Basnet
When a 13-year-old, a cardiac patient in Kathmandu, died of blockage caused by blood clots in his replaced heart-valve two weeks ago, his tragic fate was different from that of so many others. The cause of the death was not medical but the prevailing Indian economic blockade on Nepal. The fuel crisis caused by the blockade and the prolonged Tarai protests only enhanced his death.
The hospitals in Jhapa (Eastern region of Nepal) have stopped providing dialysis services to patients due to medicines and equipment shortages, and ICU/NICU services have not operated smoothly due to fuel shortage. The scenarios in the National Kidney Centers Kathmandu are not so pleasing either; the centers have run out of blood purifying fluids and there are more than 300 Kidney patients coming for dialysis in the centers every day.
This is just at a time when winter is complicating matters for earthquake-stricken Nepalese people, who are coping in the temporary shelters. The cruel economic blockade has taken a toll on people’s lives. A Muslim family living in Mandikataar, Kathmandu, is doing its best to survive. The family is still living under a makeshift shelter after the earthquake that completely demolished their house made of mud and wooden frames. The government authority promised to provide a temporary shelter to the family but with the blockade the hope of getting one has also died.
The reconstruction work in earthquake affected areas needs serious attention. The bill for National Reconstruction Authority was finally passed by the parliament committee this morning. However, with the current situation, it seems likely that people in the affected areas would have to stay longer in the temporary shelters.
The violence in the Tarai region erupted following the promulgation of Nepal’s new Constitution in September 2015. The recent protests by the Madhesis, an ethnic group in the southern plains of Nepal, pointed out that the new Constitution has citizenship provisions that give lower status to children born to a Nepali citizen and a foreign national, discriminating against Madhesis who often marry across the border. The Madhesis also feel that the proposed federal states is small and will not give them majority in any proposed provinces. Further, the allocation of fewer seats in the Constitution under the proportional representation will decrease their power in national politics.
India’s initial concerns over the violent situation in several parts of Tarai in the country bordering India were “resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalized in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance.” This reaction to the new Constitution promulgated by Nepal hasn’t gone down well with thousands of people, who are using #BackOffIndia on social media to accuse India of interfering in the country’s internal matters.
The hashtag has become one of the major trends on Twitter and Facebook, as I write this piece.
Considering the fact that our country relies solely on India for its fuel and other basic supplies, the “blockade” has ignited all sorts of negative feelings in Nepal. It is surprising that international media has been relatively quiet on the blockade. And India, on the other hand, denies the “blockade” and have been stating instead the fuel trucks of Nepal are not able to enter the country as a result of violent protests along the border. Such an explanation has drawn a highly skeptical response from the Nepalese people.
This is not the first time India has imposed economic blockade in Nepal. In 1989, India imposed a blockade in Nepal due to its growing closeness with China, as was seen in Nepal’s procurement of Chinese anti-aircraft guns at the time.
The Mask Is Off
I think most of the scholars and journalists have already written about the prevailing situation following the shortage. My main concern in this article is why the Nepalese, who are struggling at both ends, haven’t officially labeled it as a “blockade” and haven’t internationally raised our voices firmly against this inhumane action.
People who sit at the top level are bought and sold like daily commodities in Nepal by the Indian Government. Before the blockade, these top-level leaders in the political parties enjoyed India’s support in exchange of irrational promises. The Rastriya Prajantantra Party-Nepal, a right-wing Hindu party with 24 seats, had unsuccessfully demanded that the country should be reinstated as a Hindu nation, echoing the desire of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
There is no doubt that India is not preaching a message of inclusion in Nepal. It has its own hidden interests. We do not deny the part that Nepal should be as “inclusive” as possible. However, the process of imposing an inhumane “blockade” to foster an inclusive Constitution is utterly disgusting. This contradicts India’s statement of having a peaceful dialogue with Nepal in this matter.
India never hesitates to take harsh steps against its neighbor. It treats Nepal as a puppet. Whenever the power shifts in Nepal against India, camaraderie turns into bitterness.
Neha Basnet is a graduate from the International Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University, The Netherlands. She writes about development, child rights, and youth.
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