Nepalese in NYC Protest Against India

Nepalese protesting Nov. 17 near the UN against what they say is an unofficial economic blockade by India against Nepal. (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

Nepalese protesting Nov. 17 near the UN against what they say is an unofficial economic blockade by India against Nepal. (Photo by Anuz Thapa for Voices of NY)

About 200 Nepalese staged a demonstration against Nepal’s neighbor India outside the United Nations headquarters in New York on Nov. 17, demanding that India lift what they charge is an unofficial economic blockade of Nepal.

While the government of India has denied involvement in a blockade, trade of fuel, medicine and other critical items has been severely restricted. Some border crossings have been disrupted by protests by the Madhesi in southern Nepal, who opposed the Sept. 20 promulgation of Nepal’s new constitution. Groups in the southern parts of Nepal, with some social and cultural affinities to India, claim that the new Nepali constitution does not recognize their rights.

But at other crossings where no protests have been mounted, there reportedly has been little or no transport of goods into Nepal from India. And a news report in the wake of the adoption of the new constitution indicated that the Indian government was displeased enough to give “orders from above to intercept fuel shipments to Nepal.”

Nepal is facing a severe fuel shortage which has crippled daily life, exacerbating the recovery from the April earthquake. The are long lines at gas stations, and urban residents have been obliged to use firewood to cook. Schools have closed, and the situation is worsening by the day.

Demonstrators at the UN held placards with messages stating: “Back OFF India”; “No Medicine, No Food, Stop Blockade India”; “Stop Your Expansionism Modi Government” and “Modi is More Destructive Than Earthquake.”

Sandeep Sapkota, 25, who was seen holding a placard with the message “Respect your neighbor,” said, “India has no right to impose the ban. It has to obey international law.”

Nepal is a landlocked country whose eastern, western and southern areas border India. The country shares a border with China to the north. The economy of Nepal largely depends on trade with India for fuel and goods.

“We want to make the international community aware about the bad situation in Nepal due to the Indian government,” said Keshab Paudel, the president of the Non-Resident Nepali National Coordination Council of USA. Paudel, who is a doctor, added, “Hospitals are running out of medicines due to this blockade. This is completely inhumane.”

It has been reported that the stock of medical supplies will soon run out.

The past two months of economic hardship prompted the prime minister of Nepal, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, to officially urge Nepal to lift the blockade. In his first televised address to the nation on Nov. 15 he said, “Nepal is facing a crisis which should not happen even during the times of war.”

Recently, a protest in the U.K. against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 12 overshadowed his visit there, and the India-U.K. joint statement included a reference to India-Nepal ties.

The huge media coverage of U.K. protests encouraged Nepalese living in the U.S. to make themselves heard.

Shradha Thakuri, who is in her mid-20s, urged the Indian government to lift the economic embargo. “We are really unhappy with the situation in our country. We want the Modi government to withdraw this blockade,” said Thakuri, who lives in Woodside, New York.

The three-hour demonstration ended with a team of demonstrators submitting a memorandum to the representative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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