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23 Apr 2018

Call for Nepal border control

Vivek Chhetri, TT, Apr 23, 2018, Darjeeling: Lt General (retd) Shakti Gurung, who is heading the National Gorkhaland Committee (NGC), an apolitical think tank looking into issues of the Gorkha community, said on Sunday that they were in favour of some "control" and "regulation" on the Indo-Nepal border.
Gurung's comment comes at a time an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) appointed by the governments of Nepal and India are reviewing the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty 1950 that has provisions for free movement of India and Nepal citizens into each others territory.
Asked about the NGC's stand on the open border, Gurung, said: "There is a general feeling among Indian Gorkhas that we get questioned because the borders are open. There are some reasons why the country (India) has kept the border open, we share similar culture, traditions, Nepal is a friendly neighbour, but we believe that the treaty should be reviewed in light of the identity (of Indian Gorkhas)."
The EPG was formed in 2016 and its mandate runs till June this year. EPG members from Nepal include former foreign minister, Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai and constitutional and legal experts Nilambar Acharya and Surya Nath Upadhyay.
The demand for the scrapping of Article VII of the treaty was first raised by GNLF leader Subash Ghisingh when he led the statehood agitation in 1986. The GNLF had wanted the clause to be scrapped as it felt the rights given to the citizens of Nepal - a country contiguous to Darjeeling - under this treaty were blurring the distinction between Nepalese citizen and Indian Gorkhas who speak the same language.
Gurung said on Sunday: "There should be some kind of control, regulation (at the border). This is a general feeling, talk to any Gorkha community member in India, whether from here or Uttarkhand, they all feel that an open border raises questions on their (Indian) identity."
The NGC clarified that none of its members would be encouraged to contest elections.
"We will also form regional committees but we will only take those people who are not attached with political parties," said Gurung.

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