Ties between the two countries soured after Nepal released a political map showing Kalapani — a trijunction of India, Nepal and China — and Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura in Uttarakhand as part of its territory.
“For years, we have looked at those across the border as our own. We share the same culture, values, even our struggles are similar. Cross-border marriages are common. At least 60 families out of 250 in our village are related to those living in villages on the other side by marriage,” said Harish Chandra Haisiyat, a resident of Sailani Goth village in Champawat district.
Radha Devi from Nepal’s Baitadi district who married an Indian and moved to a village in Uttarakhand’s Champawat district in 1954
Haisiyat’s mother Radha Devi is from Nepal. “She married my father and moved here in 1954. We visit her paternal house every month. Through the years, three of her sisters have married into families in Vadodara, Bareilly and Pithoragarh.”
Three districts of Uttarakhand — Champawat, Pithoragarh and US Nagar — share a border with Nepal.
Haisiyat added, “There is now this fear that if tensions continue, free movement might be curbed. Right now we don’t need a passport to see our families in Nepal, many of us don’t even have one.”
In Pithoragarh’s Majirkanda village, two dozen families share marital ties with those in Nepal. Ganesh Chandra Bhatt, a resident who has in-laws in Nepal, said one only needs a valid government-issued identity card to cross the border.
Across, Lal Bahadur Chand from Nepal’s Mahendranagar told TOI, “My younger sister lives in Lucknow and we visit each other once every few months. But there is growing tension between the countries and it may have a long-lasting impact.”
Historians said the two countries have shared ties deeper than their neighbours in the region. “India and Nepal have an intertwined history. The warrior Gurkhas from Nepal ruled Kumaon division of Uttarakhand from 1790 to 1815. Some royal descendants of the Shah Kings are today settled in Bhimtal,” said historian Ajay Singh Rawat, whose father D S Rawat acted as local guardian for four-time Nepal Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand when he was studying in Nainital.
Defence experts like Maroof Raza said that given the deep bonding and relationships among border villages on both sides in the region, chances of restrictions being imposed along the border were slim. “For hundreds of years Nepal has been a natural partner for India, but growing Chinese influence in Nepal has the potential to hurt the latter’s ties with India.”
(Inputs by Prem Punetha)