We undersigned citizens are deeply concerned that the de facto economic blockade of the past two months by India has resulted in a grave humanitarian crisis in Nepal. We appeal to the concerned parties of Nepal, and to the international community including India to recognise this crisis and take effective steps to bring it to an immediate end.
As is well known, the people of Nepal have been struggling to overcome the impact of the devastating earthquake of six months ago. Coming at the heels of such a catastrophe as well as disruptions caused by political unrest in the Tarai-Madhes plains, the extended blockade by India has crippled the economy of Nepal and led to great human suffering. Vital social services have been disrupted, hospitals have run out of essential drugs and supplies, and UNICEF estimates that more than 1.6 million children have been deprived of schooling over the past two months.
All over, industries as well as small businesses are closed and development activities, including construction of vital infrastructure, are at standstill. Tourism has been severely disrupted during what would have been peak season. Employment prospects have diminished nationally, forcing hundreds of thousands more to consider job migration to India, the Gulf and Malaysia.
The fuel crisis caused by the blockade has cut the food supply chain, causing shortages in all parts of the country. It has disrupted transportation at the height of Nepal’s national holiday season, preventing millions from travelling to ancestral homes. There have been many deaths from traffic accidents caused by dangerously overcrowded public transport, with passengers including women, children and the elderly forced to travel precariously on rooftops of buses.
We 12 citizens denounce the Indian blockade and disagree with the claim that the obstruction at the border is solely the result of agitation within Nepal. There is ample evidence to the contrary, as observed in the go-slow at custom checkpoints, the refusal by the Indian Oil Corporation as monopoly supplier to load fuel tankers from Nepal, and reports in the Indian press quoting border security Seema Shuraksha Bal officers that they have been asked to impede shipments.
We are pained that India, a country that extended such immediate and unstinting support after the April 2015 earthquake, has seen fit to carry out a blockade that has halted the urgent reconstruction efforts that will make people even more vulnerable during the imminent winter season. If the earthquake hurt the Nepali economy to the tune of USD 7 billion, it is estimated that the cumulative loss from the blockade thus far significantly exceeds that amount.
Nepal, a friendly neighbour with deep historical and cultural ties with India across the open international border, is being penalised for something as above-board as promulgating a progressive, democratic, federal and republican constitution through an elected, representative and inclusive Constituent Assembly. Meanwhile, an entire generation of young Nepali citizens, born after the earlier Indian blockade of 1989-90 and harbouring only goodwill towards the neighbour, has been exposed to New Delhi’s harsh action.
Like all other constitutions of the world, the Constitution of Nepal-2015 is not perfect, and we the undersigned too demand certain amendments to bring it fully in line with pluralistic democratic norms and values. The leading parties have already introduced proposals to amend provisions in order to address key demands of disaffected groups, including proportional representation in state institutions. We believe that the complex matter of provincial demarcation in a country of many communities with cross-cutting demands must be resolved peacefully through political negotiation and democratic constitutional process. Meanwhile, we stand for an effective probe into violent incidents of the past two months with the goal of bringing those responsible to justice.
As a sovereign nation-state and a society that believes in due process, Nepal is fully capable of dealing with its internal challenges, including addressing anxieties of its Madhesi, Tharu and other communities through consultation, negotiation and constitutional amendment. The solidarity between the communities of Nepal is strong, and they are capable of managing their interrelationships for greater good without the involvement of external actors.
India’s ongoing blockade goes against the principles of Panchsheel, the spirit of regional cooperation under SAARC and BIMSTEC, the internationally recognised rights of land-locked countries, as well as India’s obligations under the bilateral transit treaty of 1991. The blockade contravenes the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both India and Nepal are signatory. New Delhi’s actions amount to unilateral coercive measures with serious negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights covered under various UN resolutions.
It is our considered view, which we believe is shared by millions of Nepalis from mountain, hill and plain, that India’s action of blockading Nepal cannot be justified under any pretext. This unfortunate step has deepened the humanitarian crisis in Nepal and is unworthy of the leadership role that we know India seeks to play on the world stage.
We demand the immediate lifting of the blockade against Nepal and restoration of good neighbourly relations. We call upon the international community to take all necessary measures to end the humanitarian crisis that the country and its people are facing.
Signed: Nilamber Acharya, Megh Ale, Kanak Mani Dixit, Kul Chandra Gautam, Chandni Joshi, Dr. Arjun Karki, Anuradha Koirala, Dr. Bhagwan Koirala, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, Sushil Pyakurel, Kapil Shrestha and Dinesh Tripathi.
Released: 10 AM, 30 October 2015, Kathmandu
Nepali language translation available