Even as there are heated discussions over Indian occupation of Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, those are not the only Nepali territories that India has encroached. There are about 174 hectares of Nepali land in the eastern Jhapa district that India has gradually captured by moving the border pillars. As a result, Nepal has lost areas in Pathamari, Mahespur, Mechipul, Bhadrapur, Galgalia border, Kakadvitta, Barishjot, Madanjot, Nakalabanda, Bahundandi, and a village across the Mechi River.
According to border expert Raj Kumar Pokharel, Nepal government had given land-ownership certificates to its citizens living in those areas in 1965; Indians started capturing them starting 1988.
There were some pieces of land that Nepal and India had agreed to provisionally give to local occupants on the condition that their ownership would be finalized later. But India has already captured those areas. Besides, Indian citizens have started farming on areas that clearly fall under Nepal. Nepali and Indian border agencies have already had a number of discussions to settle the farming issue.
Twenty-five Nepali houses in the Dulu village across Mechi Rivar in Bhadrapur Municipality, 20 houses in Pathamari area of Kechanakawal Rural Municipality, and over a dozen houses in Bhansa Khola area are without land ownership certificates. These households have been asking government authorities to give them a clear word on their nationality.
People living there remember their lands as always belonging to Nepal. The pillars installed by Rana Prime Minister Junga Bahadur Rana based on Sugauli Treaty have traditionally served as the border between the two countries. There are 988 such pillars in Jhapa district alone.
“Earlier, we did without a land ownership certificate as there was no need to sell our land. We were fine farming without a certificate,” says Sanjib Thapa of Bhansa Khola. “In 1995, the Indian forces started coming to our courtyards for land demarcation. Only then did we realize that our lands had already gone to India.”
Locals say India installed new pillars in 1988, making their lands as Indian territories. India has given ration cards to the locals, which, according to border expert Pokharel, is a plot to lay claim Indian ownership. “Nepal is unknowingly losing its territory,” he says.
Says Noor Alam of Pathamari in Kechanakawal: “Since the times my parents came to settle down here, there has never been any doubt that this is Nepali land. We also have land ownership certificate. I have Nepali citizenship based on this certificate. Now they say this land belongs to India.”
Indian authorities come to inspect border areas once a week. But the Nepali side is oblivious. Says Jinat Ganesh of Mechipari: “We don’t know what happened in the past. But now India has been building huts in the Nepali land to lay their claim. There are people living in those huts. Nepali officials never show any concern.”