Everyone must be countedThe inhabitants of the greater Kalapani area must be enumerated by virtual means.
The Central Bureau Of Statistics (CBS) had almost completed the preparatory works to conduct the 12th nationwide population census from June 8-22, but the government has decided to postpone it for an indefinite period due to the surge in coronavirus cases. The aim of the census is to ensure that 'no one should be left out and no one should be repeated'. It is important that the enumeration be reliable. The slogan for Census 2021 is 'My census, my participation'. The term census implies that each individual should be counted within the territory of the nation.
During the decennial census, every household in the country should be visited, and a headcount of those living in the country be taken. It means that authorities will also have to depute enumerators to count the people living in the greater Kalapani area, which is part of Nepali territory. It has been forcefully occupied by India for the last six decades. During the forthcoming census, the area up to Limpiyadhura has to be incorporated since it is the westernmost part of Nepal, as per the new constitutionally adopted map published on May 20 last year. However, the government agency responsible for conducting the census is not sure whether enumerators will be able to visit the households in encroached areas.
Indian authorities have been prohibiting Nepalis from going to the Kalapani area. After the publication of the new map by Nepal, even Indian nationals need to produce their identity cards, and they are interrogated when they enter the area. However, Nepalis who have family relations with people in the greater Kalapani area are allowed to visit occasionally during funerals and rituals in Chhangru and Tallo Kawa villages. In the given context, it is physically impractical to hold a census by sending enumerators to the area which is under the complete administrative control of India. But there is a probability of incorporating it by virtual means.
Given the situation, there might be three options to conduct the national census in that area. First, it can be done by counting the number of local inhabitants' houses using virtual means. While counting the number of houses with the help of Google vertical image and terrestrial oblique photographs, 161 houses have been identified (90 house in Gunji, 28 in Navi and 43 in Kuti) besides the barracks of the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police at Gunji and Navi. Assuming that there are five to six members in each household, that makes near about 900 people in the greater Kalapani area. There are no local inhabitants at Tilsi (presently Kalapani) and Nabhidang, only soldiers. The people were driven to Chhangru, Tallo Kawa and Garbyang after the occupation by India.
The second option is to ask the people of Chhangru informally. They might know the name of the head of the household and the number of children of their relatives in the Gunji and Navi areas, as they occasionally visit their kith and kin during social events. They could ask the relatives about the number of inhabitants who reside in the Gunji area. For example, Sanam Nabiyal, head of the Navi local body, may be a relative of the Nepali people in Chhangru. If it is done unofficially through the inhabitants of Chhangru, Sanam may give the number of people in the area by mentally counting the number of houses and their owners.
Third, the total figure can be computed on the basis of Indian Census Report 2011. According to this report, the population of Gunji is given as 335, Navi 78 and Kuti 363, which makes a total of 776 people. During the 1991 Nepal census, Byas, a village development committee in Darchula district in Sudurpaschim Province, had a population of 723 living in 150 individual households.
The government likely favours conducting a population census in the Kalapani area. In order to make the operation happen, it must issue a concrete decision and clear instructions to the CBS to hold the census in the greater Kalapani area when the nationwide enumeration is held after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. The area is located at ward 1 of Byas Rural Municipality in Darchula district, as per the Nepal Gazette, volume 66, number 58, dated March 10, 2017.
After the Indo-China border war in October-November 1962, Nepalis were driven to the Tallo Kawa and Chhangru areas. The Nepali inhabitants who remained were forcefully turned into Indian citizens by providing them with ration card facility, basic ID card, free schooling for their children and yearly monetary allowance.
During the census conducted in June 1961, then census officer Bhairab Risal (now a senior journalist) had conducted a census of Nabhidang, Tilsi (now Kalapani), Gunji, Navi and Kuti by deputing one Kharidar-level enumerator whose surname was Duwadi and some local employees. Theer Bahadur Rayamajhi was the chief superintendent of the statistics department. Gopal Sing Bohara has written in the book Kalapani Saga and Sorrow that the villagers of Kuti, Navi and Gunji would pay land tax to the Nepal government.
Against this background, the population of the greater Kalapani area, that constitutes Lipulekh, Nabhidang, Kalapani, Gunji, Navi, Kuti, Zolingkang and Limpiyadhura, must be incorporated for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Nepal. There is proof that censuses were taken physically in 1961 and virtually in 2011. It is said that during Nepal's first general election in 1959, the people of these areas had enjoyed voting rights. So the inhabitants of the greater Kalapani area must be enumerated by virtual means within ward 1, Byas rural municipality during the forthcoming population and housing census, after the lockdown ends and the coronavirus situation has normalised to a large extent.