Some facts of 1950 Treaty
Some facts of 1950 Treaty
By Uddhab Pd Pyakurel
The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Nepal and India has generated a debate. The Maoist leaders have raised the issue before and after the election of the Constituent Assembly. Interestingly, one can find a consensus between the extreme left and rightist political forces in calling the treaty unequal. Such an issue is being raised in India for decades.
Going still further, the Maoists once considered Delhi an expansionist power demanded for the abrogation of the 1950 Treaty. As it has now become a political issue and most of the walls of educational institutions are painted with anti-treaty slogans, many Nepalis have an understanding that it is anti-Nepal without reading the original text.
The treaty broadly talks about common security aspects of India and Nepal, and favors India to supply the arms and ammunitions to Nepal. Another provision of the treaty grants equal treatment to the nationals of each other’s country with regard to residence, business, movement etc. Among them, the first two clauses of the treaty are subverted by both Nepal and India. In other words, the first two provisions of the treaty are no more in existence as they are time and again violated by both the signatories. And, the last clause of the treaty is only partly alive after many administrative decisions taken by both the governments.
I don’t know how many of us try to see who the real beneficiaries of the provision to grant equal treatment to the both nationals are today. Nepalis are taking opportunities in jobs, education, health, etc from one of the fast growing economies of the world. When the people of Nepal were badly affected by the insurgency, many of them, especially the youth from the rural areas, went to India to escape the raging insurgency. If the Indian border had been closed then, these people would have been destined to suffer during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
If we analyze the social status of those who leave for India in search of jobs and other opportunities, many are from the marginalized communities, and from the economically weaker families. There are villages in Western, Mid Western and Far Western Nepal from where at least a person of each poor family goes to India for seasonal labor. Without doing so, the villagers would face hand-to-mouth problem. Those who go to India for menial jobs are mainly the landless and poor youth as they have no seed money to invest in business or to go abroad for employment.
During my fieldwork of some Village Development Committees in the eastern part of Surkhet, I came to know the reality that most of the Dalit households, who pre-dominantly are landless, went to India to earn and maintain their livelihood.
One interesting fact is that those who go to India for seasonal and permanent works bring not only the money, but also return with the knowledge for changing and transforming the Nepali society. It is clear that the practice of untouchability and the atrocity against the Dalits has been substantially decreased. When they are in India they know that the Kamis (black smiths) and Damais (tailors and musicians) are not treated as untouchables.
After observing the reality, even the high caste Brahmins and Chhetris have changed their mindset and started allowing the Dalits to enter their house. Thus, it is more than the exposure visit for those poor and marginalized people. This is not a small achievement in terms of social change.
There are a large number of Nepalis working in India from the marginalized communities. They are having permanent jobs in both the private and government sectors. They enter the job market through their personal contacts – friends, relatives or known people. They have already performed a good work and shown loyalty towards their employers. Though most of the Nepalis are in the lower positions working as security guards, peons, clerks etc, they send good amount of money to their families back home as they receive more than double salary and other benefits compared to their Nepali counterparts.
Education is another area from which thousands of Nepalis are benefiting. A good number of Dalits, Janajatis and even the blinds and physically handicapped Nepalis are in India pursuing higher studies. Those who can’t afford to go the United States or Western countries for higher studies but are interested in quality education are in India.
I was excited when I met a Nepali student from a very poor Dalit family who was simultaneously pursuing his Masters in Computer Application and doing a part-time job in Delhi. According to him, his father who is still with the traditional occupation of Damais in his village has sent him to pursue higher studies in Delhi.
Again, we can see a good number of visually impaired Nepalis doing masters and doctorial degrees in reputed educational institutes like Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Delhi, etc. Generally foreign students have to pay the fees in dollars. But Nepalis have two options: either they appear entrance exam like Indians do and get subsidized education or they apply as foreign students and pay the fees in US dollars.
I wonder whether those political forces of Nepal who have been raising slogans against the treaty are aware of such a ground reality. But most of the Indians know that the treaty accrues much benefit to the common Nepalis. They consider that the provision of the treaty is unequal to Indian citizens, not to the Nepalis.
We can see the role of Indian media going against the Nepali workers in India. They suggest and exert pressure on the government of India to stop Nepalis from joining jobs and getting other opportunities so that the benefits could go to the Indians. That is why the Indian diplomats and government officials are now raising their voice in favor of revision or abrogation of the treaty.
If Nepal proposes to abrogate or replace the 1950 treaty, India would be more than happy to do so. Therefore, it is for Nepal to decide whether it wants to continue the access of its citizen to the world’s fast booming economy or pile up its own internal problems.
If we start rethinking it without doing proper homework, Nepal may lose the easy access to India. Such a decision on the Nepali side would harm the people of Nepal as it has no capacity to offer similar jobs, education, health and other opportunities. And it will be a betrayal to the underprivileged and common Nepalis.
The issue of buying arms and ammunitions hardly matter to the common people. It can be assumed that the Maoists raised the anti-treaty issue in a different context, particularly when they needed youth to recruit into PLA. Now the Maoists themselves are less enthusiastic to abrogate it than the Indians. It is high time a consensus among Nepalis to deal with India is reached. The benefits that accrue to the Nepalis should not be lost without undergoing a serious study on the existing Indo-Nepal relations.
(The writer is a research fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
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