HOLIYA, INDIA, July 18: Deep down in heart, Bikaulal Yadav of Taperi village in Holiya-5 feels like he is a Nepali national. However, his residence falls in Indian territory across the border. This makes him wonder whether he is really a Nepali.
“I have always believed that I am a Nepali. But when I see where my house is located today, I get confused. I do have a Nepali citizenship certificate. But I live and work in India as any other Indian,” he narrates.
“Tell me whether I am a Nepali or an Indian?” Yadav questioned.
It's been one and half decade that Yadav has been 'citizen of two countries'. He faced such identity crisis after India constructed a 22-kilometer Kalkalwa dam.
“After they constructed the dam, one after the other settlements in Nepal got inundated and later disappeared in water. Our settlement met the same fate,” said Yadav.
After the dam claimed a number of human settlements, many Nepalis were forced to find safer place to shift to.
Yadav migrated to southern part of the dam in the Indian side.
“I feel great pain when I see the deserted area on the other side. Our house used to be there,” he reminisced. “It really hurts a lot to be forced to migrate to other's country,” he added.
The place where Yadav lives now is not vulnerable to flood and landslides. However, he says, he's not happy.
“I don't know how to express it, but it is not my choice to live here. I feel at loss to be forced to 'turn to an Indian from Nepali'.
Yadav's experience is quite common among many 'former Nepalis'. Over 300 households have shifted to the Indian soil after the construction of the dam. The Indian government has provided them facilities under certain category. They are neither counted as Indians nor as non- Indians by the Indian government.
“We do enjoy some facilities provided by the Indian government. But we do not completely feel like Indians, nor do the government treats us as one,” reported Yadav.
Bipen Kumar Singh is a Nepali national. However, he owns huge amount of land and house on the other side of the border. He said that every time India erects a dam, it triggers displacement of huge number of people across the border in Nepal, which challenges the identity of the displaced people.
“India erects dam illegally. It causes huge problem to the people living near the border,” he said. “Nepalis move to the other side as they have no other option. Indian government has to take the responsibility of those people unnecessarily. It would have been better had the dam been erected with proper planning and mutual understanding,” he suggested.
According to Singh, his family was displaced in 2000, the first year of the construction of the dam. In the beginning, they took shelter in a local school in India. Later, the Indian government gave permission to the Nepalis to settle down in its land.
“We came to India much earlier, right on the first year of the construction of the dam. People were displaced year after year and they were forced to come here in India,” Singh said.
Singh, among other displaced Nepalis, expressed sadness that the government of Nepal was not sensitive to their problems either. Even though they had raised voice against the construction of the dam then, the government did nothing about it.
“Just for survival, we had to leave our motherland and live in an alien place. But the government of our country or our administration has no any worries about it,” said Kanta Prasad Maurya, 67. “We live here in India, and it is safe to live here. But we miss our country all the time,” he added.
According to the displaced Nepalis who have been living in India, flood in Rapti and Duduwa rivers used to affect the settlements of both the countries prior to the construction of the dam. Later, the Indian settlements were protected while those in Nepal became more vulnerable to floods.
“Over half a dozen villages of Nepal have been displaced in the last few years. Some people entered India for safety while some others have been living in jungles,” said Jagadish Bahadur Singh, president of Laxmanpur Dam Victim Struggle Committee.