More than two dozen assault cases registered with Rupandehi police in the last two yearsTraders and tourism entrepreneurs fear the increase in criminal activities in the district is working against the district’s ambition to expand commercially.
On Sunday, Mahendra Kurmi of Patkhauli in Omsatiya, Rupandehi, was shot dead by unidentified persons while returning home from the bank. According to police, he had withdrawn Rs 500,000 from the Bhairahawa-based Himalayan Bank. Two motorcycles followed Kurmi, shot him and ran away with the money. The incident site is around 5km east from Bhairahawa, the district headquarters of Rupandehi.
On March 27, a 43-year-old Indian national Firoj Khan was shot dead by a sharpshooter at Gadhitol in Butwal. He was returning home from work when the incident occurred. Police claimed that Firoj’s wife carried out the murder.
On July 2, an unidentified person shot Resham Kumari Malla, chairperson of Gaindahawa Lake Repair and Sanitation Consumer’s Committee, and looted Rs 460,000 from her when she was returning home after withdrawing cash from Agricultural Development Bank in Lumbini.
On May 16, Jhinak Dhobi, an Indian national was found with a pistol at Piparaiya in Siddharthanagar. Dhobi was found with the pistol during regular police checking along the Nepal-India border area.
The above cases highlight the increasing instances of locals’ possessing and using small assault weapons to rob, extort and kill in Rupandehi. According to the District Police Office, Rupandehi, in the last two years, more than two dozen cases of assault using small weapons have been registered with the police in the district.
Possession of illegal small assault weapons is mainly due to the porous border and lax security checks at the border point, said Hridaya Thapa, superintendent of police in Rupandehi. “There are security challenges in the district. Firearms can be easily purchased in the bordering Indian villages; smuggling of small firearms in the district is becoming a major security threat in the district.”
Santosh Pandey, a provincial lawmaker from Rupandehi Constituency-3, said that residents of his constituency have started expressing concerns about their safety after instances of daylight robbery began making headlines in the district. “Even those in Bhairawaha feel unsafe amidst these growing instances of assaults and murders,” said Pandey.
The Rupandehi district is gradually transforming from a sleepy border area to a developing trade and tourism hub, but traders and tourism entrepreneurs fear that the increase in criminal activities in the district is working against the district’s ambition to expand commercially.
Kul Prasad Neupane, chairman of Siddhartha Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was also victim to assault two years ago, said, “An unidentified man shot me while I was at my shop. The perpetrator is still at large. The business community does not feel safe doing business in Rupandehi anymore.”
Stressing on the need to have a stringent security system in place at the border checkpoints, Sanjaya Bajimaya, a tourism entrepreneur, said, “Unlawful activities can be controlled only if the concerned officials tighten security at the border area. It’s the responsibility of the nation to protect its citizens.”
According to Bajimaya, the checkpoint at Bhiarahawa-Sunauli border currently does not have strict security checks. Security officials do not even verify the names of individuals or run X-ray machine checks in the border area.
Hridaya Thapa, superintendent of police, agrees that there are security challenges in the district. “Both the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force should conduct tighter surveillance in the border area to maintain peace and security in the district. There should be 24-hour security monitoring in the border area,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mahadev Pantha, chief district officer, said that smuggling of small firearms and drugs and human trafficking and other unlawful activities have marred the district and its potential to grow into an economic hub in the country. “Butwal is the temporary provincial capital of Province-5. So, the area is also a highly sensitive area,” said Pantha.