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The first time I arrived in Susta, I had walked around 7 minutes from the river across the sandy bank to reach the village. I saw two small huts where people were selling tea and fish. I sat there talking to them for a while. The next time I went, I did not see the huts. I asked someone where the huts were. Pointing towards the river she calmly said, “Somewhere there, can’t be sure”.
Susta was once perched firmly on the west bank of the Narayani River, which has long been considered as the border between Nepal and India. However, with the river changing course due to climate change, and cutting persistently into Nepali territory, the village today finds itself on the east of the Narayani. India maintains the new course of the river as the boundary while Nepal disagrees, making Susta a contested portion of Nepal within India, surrounded on three sides by India, and on the fourth by the Narayani. It is estimated that 19,980 hectares have come under Indian encroachment thus far.
The security officials say that the Narayani breached around 500 hectares of farmland during the monsoon of 2013 in Susta. This has been occurring at an accelerated rate for almost a decade now. “Now it’s just the farms but in 2 years time the river will start eroding the village if nothing is done”, exclaims Rampyare Kurmi, a local.
“There is the ‘Save Susta Campaign’ (a local movement established to protest against Indian advancement into their land) on one side and also the resistance with the river,” Laila Begum, a local, states, “How many battles must we fight?” But what are the issues that will be left to resolve if the land itself doesn’t exist anymore?
This is a petition for change in Susta, resolution of the dispute between the two countries, building of retaining walls along the bank of the Narayani. This is a poem dedicated to the people of Susta, their sorrow, their grief, their determination, their resistance, their persistence, their isolation.
”A petition is a poem, a poem is a petition.” (The Dreamers, Bernardo Bertolucci).