I grew up hearing a folklore that said, “Nepal is a yam trapped between two boulders. Never understood what was wrong to be in a place of a landlocked country that shares borders with two economically booming country of the world . Being born and raised in a small village, Jhapa Bazaar, bordering India, I have beautiful memories of going across the border countless times to attend fairs or simply to shop for objects that were otherwise hard to come by.
I landed in Birgunj in a cold December morning, a day before my birthday. For the first time, on that not-so-comfortable Tanga, shivering! yet holding a mic to record the tuk-tuk of the horse that was so compelling, I felt it was the only sound in the whole universe and my camera to capture the first impression of Birgunj. But the honey didn’t last long soon after a while a group of Madeshi protesters blocked our way and tried to vandalize the ride and warned us to go back, to where we came from, it was 4 in the morning. Dead silence, and a guy beside me silently uttered sarcastically, “Welcome!!”
Birgunj, one of the major Nepali cities and the biggest trading gateway between Nepal and India providing important and basic resources such as fuel. Almost all amenities the country needs for daily purposes comes in from this customs point. But then, I was also witness to a very unique situation in Birganj wherein, a sizeable portion of the marginalized Madeshi community were staging a strong protest in the streets against the government demanding a fair treatment by the state to safeguard their constitutional rights, as well as larger sanctioned territory as the current federal States cut through ancestral land.
Their agitation led to a confrontation with the police force that eventually forced them to stage their protest in no man’s land, disrupting the customs gateway between both countries. As India and Nepal share more than a 1700 km open border, which touches Bihar and UP, cross boundary problems in the Terai seemed to escalate. The blockade continued for more than 4 months leaving the entire nation in a state of crisis.
This is my visual documentation and expression of Birganj, being at the center of the whole movement and the Madeshi people who are still in state of limbo. They believe that the new constitution is against Madeshi sentiments and does not provide enough provisions for the minority communities. Hence they want the ruling leadership to take a stand for the disenfranchised. Somewhere between the state and the law, a community lives in hope of a more egalitarian future.