India’s aggressive move to show Kalapani as its territory in a new map has sparked a dispute with Nepal.

By S.G Jilanee | January 2020

In British India, Kalapani meant the convict settlements of Andaman and Nicobar Islands below the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean where criminals sentenced to life imprisonment were transported. But, in today’s idiom, Kalapani is the name of a territory, disputed between India and Nepal – and there is no pani (sea) the region – just a river! The dispute was sparked by a recent Indian map, showing Kalapani as a part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. But the Nepal government contends that the area lies within its territory and has raised objections to its inclusion in India's new political map, which has triggered loud protests in Kathmandu.

Kalapani is a 35 sq. km. stretch of land, located at an altitude of 3600m on the Kailash Manasarovar route. It borders Uttarakhand in India and Sudurpashchim Pradesh in Nepal.

While Nepal claims Kalapani to be a part of its Darchula district, the region is administered by India as a part of Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand.

Nepal also claims that the river to the west of Kalapani is the main Kali River; hence it belongs to Nepal. The river borders the Nepalese district of Darchua in Sudurpashchim province and the Indian district of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand state. The Nepal government, therefore, claims that the Kalapani territory located in its far-west is an integral part of its state.

The Treaty of Sugauli signed by the Kingdom of Nepal and the Government of British India on 4 March 1816, locates the Kali River as Nepal's western boundary with India. The 1911 British Indian gazette Almora Volume XXXV by JMS Adams shows that the Kali River is originated as Kunthi Yangti River. The people of Vyas region were instructed to pay taxes in Nepal.

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The writer is a senior political analyst and former editor of SouthAsia. He can be reached at ghulamjil@outlook.com

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