SILIGURI, May 22: A number of eminent intellectuals from Siliguri have demanded the abrogation of the 1950 Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty as a means of restricting border movement from neighbouring Nepal into Darjeeling and Siliguri. “Passport-visa system should be introduced and the citizenship rights should be bestowed upon the genuine Indian Nepalis who had come into India prior to the signing of the treaty in 1950,” they demanded. They also expressed apprehension that if the movement along the border was not regularised through passport-visa system, the settlers might outnumber the original inhabitants posing a serious law and order threat in near future for the hills and the plains in Darjeeling district.
Mr Ashru Kumar Sikdar, an academician and writer, said today that it was queer that the border between two countries remained open for years. “It is being used by people from the neighbouring country to settle in several areas of Darjeeling district, particularly Siliguri,” he observed.
“The only way to control this problem is to abrogate the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty immediately. The Maoist leader has already demanded of revising the treaty in the changed political context. We cannot understand why the Government of India is not yet serious about the issue,” Mr Sikdar wondered.
Incidentally, the external affairs minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who was in Kalimpong to inaugurate a water project recently, had said in response to Prachanda’s demand that India was open to talks with Nepal.
Another academician from Siliguri Mr Haren Ghosh today said that if the Centre was not serious about restraining trans-border movement, law and order problem in the Darjeeling hills as well as in Siliguri would get aggravated. “The genuine Indian Nepalis and the settlers after 1950 should be differentiated and passport-visa system should be introduced along the Nepal border to check the trans-border movement continuing unabated for years,” Mr Ghosh stated.
Mr Asoke Hore, the secretary of the newly formed apolitical platform, Jana Jagaran Mancha, said that Siliguri was fast becoming a den for the ‘Bhupalis,’ (Bhutanis of Nepal origin) who had been deported from Bhutan.
“There is evidence that a section of the ‘Bhupalis’ is involved in subversive activities recently unearthed in Siliguri. We are apprehensive that if the Indo-Nepal Treaty is not abrogated and human movement across the border is not subjected to a passport-visa system a much graver law and order problem may engulf the region,” Mr Hore warned.