A purported Nepali man is humiliated in Indian city of Varanasi over Oli’s Ayodhya remarksIf bitterness at the political level has percolated down to the people’s level, it is a matter of grave concern, leaders and foreign policy experts say.
A purported Nepali man based in the Indian city of Varanasi was forcibly shaved and forced to chant slogans against Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli over the latter’s recent controversial statement on the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram.
A video of the incident posted by Arun Pathak, the coordinator of the little-known Hindu outfit, Vishwa Hindu Sena, on Facebook on Wednesday has gone viral in social media.
Oli had recently claimed that Lord Ram of Hindu mythology Ramayan was born in Nepal and not in Ayodhya, India. His remarks had inflamed many in India. Diplomats and leaders in Nepal had warned that the prime minister’s statement could not only sink the Nepal-India ties to a new low, but also threaten the people-to-people relations between the countries.
In the video, the Nepali man is seen sitting on a riverbank with “Jai Shri Ram” written on his shaved head and he is being instructed by the cadres of Vishwa Hindu Sena to chant slogans against Prime Minister Oli and praise India for employing many Nepalis.
The video was widely circulated in Indian media and Nepali social media sites, where many have demanded that the government of Nepal and its embassy in New Delhi launch a prompt investigation and prevent similar incidents from repeating in the future.
Leaders and foreign policy experts said the current status of Nepal-India ties is in “a state of suspension”, and if bitterness at the political level has percolated down to the people’s level, it is a matter of grave concern.
It seems like the prime minister is deliberately damaging Nepal-India ties, said Upendra Yadav, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
“If people-to-people relations are damaged, it will hurt Nepal more than India.Why is the prime minister hell bent on damaging the relations with India?” he said.
Yadav said several Indian media outlets are also equally responsible for damaging the Nepal-India ties.
“As long as Oli remains in power, our ties with India will not return to normal. Oli has gone too far,” said Yadav.
The Hindu outfit responsible for the video has also reportedly posted posters in Varanasi, stating that Nepalis living in India will have to face consequences if Oli did not retract his statement.
The ancient city of Varanasi is considered holy by many Hindus. It is the electoral constituency of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A senior ruling party leader told the Post that Prime Minister Oli should be held responsible for the entire fiasco in the bilateral ties with India. Party leaders have become more serious after the Varanasi incident. They fear that what remains of Nepal-India ties could go worse in the future.
Prakash Chandra Lohani, former foreign minister, said that the prime minister’s statement has deeply rattled the ties between two nations.
Calling the incident horrible, Lohani said the unfounded and baseless remarks made by Oli were certain to hamper the people-to-people ties between the two countries.
“We should stop going out of track if we were to improve our ties,” Lohani said.
After the incident was reported, Nepali Ambassador to India Nilamber Acharya had taken up the matter with Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath on Friday, according to the embassy.
Ambassador Acharya also wrote on Twitter that the matter had been taken up with the government of Uttar Pradesh.
Both sides have agreed that Nepal-India ties will not be impacted by the incident and the government of Uttar Pradesh has assured the safety of the Nepali nationals living in the state, an official at the Nepali embassy said.
“Chief Minister Adityanath expressed serious concern and reservation over the incident and assured to take action against the culprits,” the official told the Post over phone.
Vijaya Chauthaiwale, in-charge of Foreign Affairs Department of Foreign Affairs Department of Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, informed through his social media that a first information report (FIR) was registered against the accused.
Meanwhile, Varanasi police has said that they have arrested one Santosh Pandey for taking the video.
Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former Nepali ambassador to India, said that the people-to-people relations between Nepal and India could be quickly recovered, but the crux of the problem is the standoff at the government level where all bilateral communications are suspended.
“Ever since the issue of border dispute surfaced, the state of our relations with India is in suspension. We do not know when and at what level the dialogue is going to resume. Indians are silent and we are in damage control mode. The prime minister says something controversial and hurtful, and the Foreign Ministry is put to the task of damage control. Though other aspects of the bilateral ties are very much right on track, to avert any kind of misadventures in the relations, talks with India is imperative,” said Thapa. “Since the discord, dispute and differences with India has now spilled over from the government level to the peoples between the two countries, only talks and continuous engagement with India is a way out of this mess.”
But diplomatic sources say that talks between Kathmandu and New Delhi on minimising the ongoing issues related to boundaries, among others, are not possible anytime soon.
Our relations with India have taken a dangerous turn, Dinesh Bhattarai, former foreign policy adviser and ambassador, told the Post.
“The statement made by our prime minister was uncalled for, unwelcome and unwarranted. His cheap but unfounded comments have hurt the bilateral ties and hurt the sentiment of many Indian people. If negativity and animosity divided the peoples from both sides, then no one can manage it,” warned Bhattarai.