The family of Gajendra Thakur of Biratnagar-17 in eastern Nepal has not left home in the past nine months. No, they are not under some kind of house-arrest. Nor do they have a deadly contagious disease. The reason for their forced confinement is that even though the Thakur family home falls firmly in Nepal, the road in front belongs to India. As the international Nepal-India border has been sealed since April 25 to control the spread of Covid-19, they cannot venture out.
Despite living in Nepal, the family has no option to using the Indian road to get around. Now, India has opened its side of the border while Nepal is yet to open its side.
The no-man’s land (Dasgaja) on the Nepal-India border lies to the west of Thakur family’s house. The no-man’s land is in turn connected to a road to India. Previously, the Thakur family used that same road to come to Nepal through the Jogbani customs checkpoint but now they are restricted from entering through the checkpoint even though their house is in Nepal.
The Thakur family has been living there for seven generations. Gajendra Thakur is the second son in the Thakur family which comprises of four brothers—Krishna Kumar, Gajendra, Rabindra and Ashok—who have built four separate houses on their ancestral property.
“My great-grandfather owned the property which at that time was a single plot of four acres. I even have a property tax receipt dating back to 1930 which has my great-grandfather Firan Thakur’s name on it,” Gajendra Thakur, 71, says. Firan Thakur’s descendants still occupy the land.
In 1947, a Rana family built the Raghupati Jute Mill by encroaching on some of Thakur family’s land and built a high wall. In 1976, the Biratnagar Customs Office forcibly seized another big chunk of land and built a wall as high as Raghupati Jute Mill’s in the northeast section.
Earlier, the road leading to Mills Area through Road Shesh Chowk in Biratnagar passed in front of Thakur’s house, on the way to Budhanagar. But then the Biratnagar customs raised a wall and blocked the road. The family fought for compensation and road access for years but in the end, only received a small compensation but no passage to commute.
Thakur’s family then had to depend on India to even go out of their home. Gajendra Thakur has property documents from decades ago. Showing a pile of papers that have accumulated over all these years fighting for their rights, Thakur says, “We used to shelter Nepali Congress leaders both before and after the revolution in the 1940s. My father Ram Shovit even let them hide their weapons in our granary,” Thakur recalls.
Out of the four acres of land the family owned in the past, only about 0.58 acres remain with it. The rest was occupied by Raghupati Jute Mill and Biratnagar customs. Of the four sides of the property, Nepal lies to the north, east and south and India to the west. Not only their home, but their farming land is connected with the Indian border.