A senior SSB official(seated, center) in discussion with Nepali officials in Kechana-4, Jhapa on November 28, 2015
JHAPA, March 14: Highhandedness of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Indian border security forces, was a serious issue for villagers in Jhapa along the Nepal-India border areas. SSB personnel would storm in their house anytime in Prithivinagar, Bahundangi, Kakadbhitta, Kechana, Baniyani, Jyamirgadhi and Khajurigachhi, among other villages and terrify the locals.
Under the pretext of chasing smugglers or official operations, the SSB would interrogate Nepalis unnecessarily. However, such activities of the SSB have almost stopped in Jhapa border after a ‘lesson was taught’ to them, locals said.
“They could come in our villages almost every day and trouble the people. These included extortion, misbehaving with boys and girls here and so on. Sometimes, they would provoke Indians on their side to encroach our land. However, this has stopped since SSB security personnel were held last year,” said Dayaram Dahal, local of Baniyani village that lies on the western border of Jhapa. “SSB has not repeated such acts since then,” he added.
On November 28, 2015, Nepalis retaliated against the SSB collectively. It was Sunday morning when locals of Kechana - 4, took SSB personnel in control. SSB personnel had stormed in Lal Mahomad Alam’s home at four in the morning. They manhandled his wife, who cried for help, and then they ran away.
They warned her not to shout and frightened her. They repeatedly asked her ‘where oil and beetle nut smugglers were hiding’. Some of them searched her house. Her shouts and waling had woken the neighbors. While the Alam family was being tortured, neighbors gathered in front of the house. The sun was yet to rise but the villagers trickled into Alams house bewildered by the commotion of Indian armed forces and a Nepali family’s desperate cry for help.
The distress call was responded by the villagers collectively. They intervened and took some of the SSB personnel in their control and started questioning them. While they were reprimanding them from entering Nepali soil in the future, one of the SSB personnel took out his pistol and warned to open fire. While the dispute was going on, Nepal’s Armed Police Force (APF) personnel reached the scene.
In an effort to normalize the situation, APF personnel asked the SSB personnel to put down the fire arm. However, the SSB men pointed his pistol at the APF personnel. As the matter was getting serious, more APF personnel and dozens of other villagers had reached the scene. All ready to retaliate against the SSB. It was apparent that the SSB personnel were trapped and the only way out for them was to comply with the APF. Ultimately they gave in and the APF team led by Bhim Lal Chaudhari rescued the SSB personnel.
“It was not easy to rescue them safely at that time. Altogether, there were 13 SSB personnel. The villagers could have done anything to them,” reminisced an APF official, requesting anonymity, who was present at the scene on that morning. “That incident became a turning point. Since then we have not heard of any complain of SSB troubling Nepali locals,” he added.
According to the officer, “Nepalis are still questioned at the border. But that happens only on the Indian side. The SSB men do not enter into Nepali villages like earlier. Their bullying has stopped,” he noted.
In Jhapa, 118 kilometers long border side is attached with India. Locals of the border side still remember the highhandedness of the SSB. However, they have now heaved a sigh of relief in the changed context.
“There are several minor to major bitter incidents related with SSB. But the incident of last year has proved that the highhandedness is not institutional,” said the Nepali police officer. He added that the bullying was simply the result of attitude of certain SSB personnel. “We cannot generalize it. It depends and varies from person to person. But when many of them are doing that and people in many villages are tortured, it looks like they commonly practice it,” he further added.
Nityananda Rajbanshi of Khajurgachhai noted that the Indian police have shown quite patience and wisdom since the incidence last year. “They would always give us tension. But they have changed since that incident,” he said. He stressed that Nepalis should respond in similar manner in border areas in other parts of the country as well. “When the SSB is shown that there is unity among villagers and that they are not allowed to enter our country illegally, they will not be reckless,” he stated.