Charumati, daughter of King Ashoka, reportedly built a number of Buddhist Stupas in Patan. A board hanging at the Stupa in Patan Pimbahal shows Nepal’s established historical relations.
However, the historically existing relations saw a disconnect due to several factors. At a time when Nepal and Bihar relations are gradually vanishing, a group of Nepalese intellectuals interacted with intellectuals and scholars from Bihar and around the world about the factors of connect and disconnect.
Organized by Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI) on the occasion of its silver jubilee celebration, the interaction of Nepali, Indian and international scholars focused on Bihar and Nepal: Searching for Common Prosperity between Hydraulic Connect and Historic Disconnect.
Nepal and Bihar have historical connections of over two centuries. From Emperor Ashoka even up to Lichhavi, Malla and Shaha dynasties in Nepal, there has been some or the other kind of historical connection. They enjoyed close religious, cultural, demographic and economic links.
From Emperor Ashoka right through Lichhavi and Malla periods in Nepal and Mogul rule in India, Ganga plains and Nepal Mountains have enjoyed close cultural, demographic and economic links. The advent of colonialism, however, brought different value systems, economic models and technologies into the picture.
During early rule of Nepal by Lichhavi or Baishali, before the current political set up came to exist, Nepal and Bihar had so much common and shared commonalities to bind the two together. As long as Bihar is in the central stage of politics in India, Nepal had also got a lot of opportunities. When Bihar gradually lost its own influence in Delhi, Nepal too was a loser.
With the advent of modern democracy and colonial rule, the state and nature of relations changed. There is more distrust at the government level because of their own perceptions.
Day on Nepal Bihar
Academician of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) and former water resources minister Dipak Gyawali led the Nepali team, consisting of former water resource secretary Dr. Dwarika Nath Dhungel, vice president of Water Conservation Foundation Govinda Sharma Pokharel, Prashanta Jha, senior editor at The Hindustan Times, president of Nepal Environmental Journalist Forum Arjun Dhakal, Editor of New Spotlight Keshab Poudel and Kosi dam victim from Saptari district of Nepal Deo Narayan Yadav. They presented their views in a session chaired by renowned Bihar’s Kosi River activist D.K. Mishra.
In the presence of international experts and participants, Nepalese experts shared how closely Nepal and Bihar were connected in the past and disconnected now. Moderating the talk, Gyawali presented a rare picture of a stupa built by daughter of Asoka in Patan showing the historical connection.
Similarly, former water resources secretary Dr. Dhungel spoke about how Nepal and Bihar were disconnected by Kosi Treaty and its flaws in sharing water between Nepal and India.
Govinda Sharma Pokharel stressed the need to start negotiations to construct dam in Kosi to prevent future catastrophe and loss of human life and to share the benefits of Kosi equally.
Journalist Prashant Jha highlighted the changing dynamics of relations between Bihar and Indian central government and Nepal’s relations with Indian central government and Bihar state government. Jha made it clear that the centre controlled foreign relations and Bihar’s state government cannot do anything with its relations with Nepal.
Presenting environmental connections, Arjun Dhakal said how industrial pollution generated in India was contributing to the rise of temperature in the Himalayas, threatening the glaciers. Dhakal said temperature rising in the Himalayas will change the course and level of water in main rivers like Kosi and Gandaki. He argued that it will have drastic effects on both Nepal and Bihar.
The story of Kosi victim Deo Narayan Yadav from Saptari was different. He spoke about how current embankment and changing course of Kosi was making the life miserable. He complained that they are yet to receive the compensation for their land under the Kosi Treaty.
Summing up the talk, Kosi activist from India D.K. Mishra said how Gyawali had made efforts to connect Nepal and state of Bihar during his tenure as minister of water resources of Nepal. “Gyawali is a first and only water resource minister from Nepal till now to address Bihar Bidhan Sabha on water and river issue in 2003. It was an historic event to share the problems of rivers,” said Mishra.
In the five days of the International Conference, titled Bihar and Jharkhand: Shared History to Shared vision, academician of NAST and former minister Gyawali also presented his paper on Transcending the Constraints of Geography: Role of Inland
Navigation in the Shared Future of the Himalaya-Ganga.
Former minister Gyawali, in his talk, said how navigation of Himalaya-Ganga helps to prosper the region, including Nepal. He argued that navigation is the cheapest mode of transport and inland navigation will drastically reduce the cost of transport.
Attended by world renowned scholars and experts from India, USA, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Netherland, Canada, the international conference was inaugurated by President of India Pranab Mukharjee.
From language to ethnicity, politics to history, the five days' international conference focused on how Bihar and Jharkhand needed to move closer for the prosperity of both the states.
Nepal-Bihar religious Connection
When one talks of Nepal and Bihar relations, there are thousands of factors to link both the regions. From Kosi to Gandak and Bagmati and other hundreds of small stream ends link the landmass of Bihar and Nepal.
Besides, there are thousands of other factors like religion, culture, history, nature, rivers, languages, and ethnicity to connect the two. Bihari people regard Pashupatinath, Janakpurdham and other thousands of religious places of Nepal as important. Nepalese do have similar connections.
Many Nepalis come to Gaya to perform Shraddha, to pay homage to their ancestors. No religious practice is completed without visiting Gaya. It is the respect and regard for ancestors to pay a visit to Gaya. Nepal’s Mukti-Chhetra, which is in the Himalaya, has a religious side connected with Harihar Chhetra of Bihar. Thousands of people march annually to take a dip in Harihar Chhetra and Muktinath. If there is rain in hill, there is flood in plain. Naturally, Nepalese and Biharis know the way to swim together.
Contribution of Bihar’s Scholars
The contribution of Bihar’s intelligence remains immense for Nepal. Nepal benefited from educators and scholars from Bihar. From ancient time to even now, Patna was regarded as a gateway to Nepal and Nepalis. Many Bihari laureate and teachers have contributed by offering their service to enlighten Nepali in the plain, hill and high hill. For instance, Nepal’s colleges were affiliated with Patna University till 1960, and most of the common Nepali graduated from Patna University then. Nepalese received all kinds of moral and other support in political and social transformation from Bihar. However, this is gradually vanishing now.
Love and affection of people of both Bihar and Nepal are turning sour because of disinformation motivated by political interest. People of both the regions are very much misinformed about the things shared in the past. For instance, the Indian media flow the news that Nepal opened the floodgate when there was flood in Bihar. Similarly, there has been misreporting about Bihar on Nepal. There is no high dam at all in Nepal to regulate the water.
The time has come to revive our religious connectivity factor to make Nepal-Bihar relations great again. This will benefit both of us. Let us talk about connectivity factor, rather than the disconnection. We need to go together in sorrow and happiness. Development of one side immensely benefits the other. This is where we all benefit.
Although there is a long way to go before seeing any major change in the relations, the seminar has reestablished connectivity that was on the verge of collapsing. From hydraulic to culture, and religious values, the relations were on the process of fading.
Whatever the factors of commonality and closeness between Nepal and Bihar, the reality is different. The fact of Nepal is that it does not have any storage dam although some Indian media often blame Nepal for damming the water and releasing it during the monsoon.
Reporting from Patna