The village of Susta in the South of Nepal is bordered on three sides by Indian land. Along its Western edge runs the Gandak River. Known in Nepal as the Narayani, it was recognized as the international border when the demarcation treaty was signed in the 1800s.
In 1977, Susta lay on the West bank of the river, but as flooding & the shifting Himalayan river systems take their course, it now sits on the Eastern side of the water. The Indian government claims that as the river shifts, so does the borderline. The dispute has been ongoing for decades, with no resolution in sight.
The residents of Susta identify as Nepali, although very few hold official citizenship. With very little money & battling inefficient or neglectful government systems, papers are difficult to obtain. Whilst they fight over the fertile land, neither country seems to be taking responsibility for the people. Villagers described to me feeling disenfranchised & ignored.
People often walk to markets or schools in the Indian villages. However, border security can hold people for hours at a time & subject searches & questioning. To avoid the border control, some villagers take the boats across the Narayani to reach mainland Nepal or to enter India from other points. Officials have cited accusations of Susta becoming a haven for poachers & agricultural criminals for the checks.
The Narayani will flood again & as rivers do, constantly & forever change course. With an apparently unconcerned government on the Nepali side & the their presence challenged on Indian soil, the villagers of Susta are stuck in a no-mans land, enduring the hardships & conflicts that surround them.