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2 yrs of Lipulekh dispute: No change in 'roti-beti' relations

Pithoragarh: Exactly two years ago, defense minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the Lipulekh road in Pithoragarh, triggering a series of events that strained bilateral ties between India and Nepal. Regardless, residents of both countries, separated by the Kali river in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh and Chmpawat districts, say they live in harmony and honor the ages-old 'roti-beti' connection, which refers to ties of marriage and trade that are shared by local residents of the two countries.
On May 8, 2020, defense minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 75-km long road connecting Lipulekh pass (at the Tibet-China-Nepal near Kalapani) with the Dharchula area in Pithoragarh, in order to commute easier for Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrims on the Indian side. Nepal took exception, claiming a part of the road was built on its territory. Months later, it released an "amended" political map, showing Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura (areas in India) as part of its territory while a resolution is awaited, bilateral talks are underway on the issue.
Deepak Singh Ronkali, president of the Pithoragarh-based Rung Kalyan Sansthan, which looks after the local Rung community that speaks the script-less Runglow language and is spread across India and Nepal, said ties between residents of the countries had not been affected. "People living on either side of the Kali river aren't affected by the Kalapani fall-out, they continue to share a strong bond. In fact, our organization, as well as other organizations, helped several Nepal citizens during the Covid lockdown, when initially cross-country travel was banned and later allowed with curbs."
Ashok Bora, a Nepal-based social activist, said, "The Kalapani dispute is between New Delhi and Kathmandu. For us, the 'roti-beti' relationship comes first."
"Common people of Nepal do not care about the dispute. Some Nepal political parties, especially underground, left-wing outfits, are truing to stoke the fire for political gains but they do not speak for the whole of Nepal," said Krishna Garvayal, a local businessman from Pithoragarh's Garvyang village. Ashish Kumar Chauhan, the district magistrate of Pithoragarh, told, "Relations between Indian and Nepal people are very cordial at the time. In fact, the construction of a second motor bridge on the Kali river is underway at Dharchula, it would be the second such bridge to connect the two countries. Also, the Pithoragarh district administration has granted permission to residents of Tinker and Chhangru villages in Nepal to use Indian territory to reach their residences."

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