Unease along the southern flank

Yearender/Security: There was generally peace and harmony in the country, as predicted by the astrologers.  However, the prediction didn’t come true for people living along the southern borders.

Miscreants from across the border robbed Bhutanese commuters along the Indian highway; they came into homes, took away Bhutanese and held them for ransom.

While schools across the country have already begun, the 14-year old student, who was abducted on December 16, is yet to be freed from the clutches of the kidnappers.  Two drivers, who went missing in September from Santipur, still have not come home to their worried loved ones.

Abductees have not called again, since the family members told them their ransom demand was way beyond affordability.

Seven abductions in less than six months in 2014 shocked the nation and left a permanent fear among those residing in the southern border regions.  They do not feel safe in their own homes.  In total, Bhutanese farmers paid Nu 1.5M to kidnappers, thereby leaving them in debt for many more years to come.

Such security issues, especially kidnapping, were brought to parliament, with the opposition party accusing the government of not being serious, and questioning  if safety measures were being put in place.

The Wood Horse year saw 10 robbery cases of Bhutanese commuters plying between Phuentsholing and Samtse via India.  However, there were also some that were not reported.

Although the eight men involved in the spate of robberies were arrested, the fear of commuting on the Indian road, especially the route between Nimti and Alipurduar, looms large.

With all the abduction and looting, it reminds Bhutanese commuters that driving via the Indian highway is not safe.  It would be wiser to wait for the designated escort and travel in a convoy.

The government has plans to build wall on the almost 33km stretch between Gelephu and Sarpang, so that miscreants do not enter into Bhutanese soil to take away people as and when they please.

In November, angry Indian mobs burnt and damaged Bhutanese vehicles plying between Samtse and Phuentsholing, after the death of an Indian maid, employed by a Bhutanese couple, sparked violence along the border.

Five Bhutanese vehicles were stranded in Chamurchi, after a mob of about 6,000 people set a Wagon R on fire, and damaged three light vehicles and a truck on November 24. The maid reportedly died of an overdose of a controlled substance, but the mob suspected foul play, with Indian media playing it up, alleging murder.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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