The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Protest stalls wall on Bhutan border

Jalpaiguri, Jan. 15: A wall stands in the way of the two friendly neighbours.

The 2-km-long wall erected by the Bhutan government along the border, reportedly to demarcate its boundary with India, has caused consternation in the administrative circle here.

The Jalpaiguri district administration protested when a Bhutanese agency started building the wall along Jaigaon, the last Indian outpost across from Phuentsholing, gateway to Thimpu.

District officials said the wall had caused “unrest” in Jaigaon as local residents feared the structure would prevent free movement of people on both sides.

Bhutanese authorities, however, halted the construction when the district administration brought it to their notice. But the issue lingers as both sides seek a “permanent” solution.

“Since we maintain cordial relations, we spoke to the subdivisional officer and deputy mayor of Phuentsholing and requested them to stop the task temporarily. We are happy that they have agreed,” additional district magistrate of Alipurduar Srikumar Mondal said. “The final decision on the wall would be taken later at higher levels.”

Phuentsholing’s subdivisional officer Karma Tshering, when contacted, said he was not supposed to comment on the issue. “All I can say is there is absolutely no unrest in the bordering area. The situation is peaceful,” he said over the phone.

Tshering said a local Bhutanese corporation was erecting the wall. “The city corporation’s work does not come under my jurisdiction, so I have no idea of the facts associated with this issue.”

Rajiv Kumar, the district land and land reforms officer of Jalpaiguri, said: “Bhutan has taken the decision all by themselves. They had not intimated us about the matter and so we asked them to stop the construction.”

“Everything was alright then. Only recently, we got to know that the Bhutan government had started the construction of the wall in the stretch, something that was never mentioned in the treaty. We opposed it. However, with the district magistrate intervening, the construction was stopped yesterday afternoon,” the official said.

“On behalf of the district administration, we have informed the deputy commissioner and the subdivisional officer of Chukha and Phuentsholing, reminding them that the decision was entirely unilateral and that we were not even intimated before the work started,” he added.

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