Chhangru and Tinkar locals return home as border opened for a few hours on ThursdayOther homebound people of both countries also crossed the international border to go home.
Around 300 residents of Chhangru and Tinkar, who were stranded in Khalanga for the past two months due to the lockdown, made their way home on Thursday as the authorities of Nepal and India agreed to open the border for a few hours.
Chhangru, Tinkar and Khalanga are all inside Nepali territory, but one has to pass through Indian territory to get from Khalanga to these two villages, as there are no roads or foot trails on the Nepali side.
Tek Singh Kunwar, the assistant chief district officer, said a suspension bridge across the Mahakali River in Khalanga, the district headquarters of Darchula, was opened from 9 am to 3 pm, allowing stranded citizens of both the countries to return to their respective countries. According to Kunwar, 280 villagers of Chhangru and Tinkar that lie in Ward No. 1 of Byas Rural Municipality crossed the bridge to head home on Thursday.
With the onset of winter every year, the residents of Chhangru and Tinkar villages descend to district headquarters Khalanga and other places in lower altitude to avoid the cold. They return to their villages and fields, ready for the new plantation season, when spring arrives. However, this year, they had to wait for months to return home, as the Nepal-India border has been sealed for about two months amid Covid-19 fear.
“We generally reach our villages by mid-April every year. We are delayed by a month this year due to the lockdown and the border seal,” said Mohan Singh Tinkari of Byas Ward No 1.
The locals of Chhangru and Tinkar have been passing through Indian land to reach Khalanga for the past one and a half decades, as the horse-way on the Nepali side, which had been constructed during the Panchayat regime, is unusable due to the lack of regular maintenance. It takes four to five days for the locals of Chhangru and Tinkar to reach home from Khalanga.
“We had requested the authorities concerned some two months ago to take necessary initiatives so the villagers of Chhangru and Tinkar could go home. Finally, we can go home,” said Ashok Singh Bohara, the chairman of Ward No 1 in Byas Rural Municipality. The stranded villagers had been staging a sit-in at the District Administration Office for the past week, demanding the authorities to make arrangements for their return home.
Similarly, as many as 319 homebound Nepalis stranded in the bordering Indian town of Dharchula also entered Nepal on Thursday. The returnees have been kept in quarantine facilities in Mahakali and Shailyashikhar municipalities. The district administration said the returnees of Darchula would be sent to their respective local units on Friday.