A look back at the headlines, news and articles published in the Nepali press during the 1989 Indian blockade shows what is happening in Nepal today is merely a recap of what Nepalis went through 25 years ago.
Here are some examples:
1. In 1989, India had imposed a blockade on Nepal seven months after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Nepal. This time, India’s blockade comes just five months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated central Nepal.
2. Just as present, newspapers back then were replete with news about fuel shortages. The only difference is: people queued up for kerosene back then but they are now lining up for petrol and cooking gas.
3. Prime Minister KP Oli has said India is treating Nepal as if the two countries are at war. Oli is echoing what prominent civil rights activist Devendra Raj Pandey said in 1989: “India is treating us as if we are at war”.
4. India denies imposing blockade against Nepal, saying cargo trucks are passing through border posts unaffected by Madhesi protests. An article published in Deshantar on 2 April 1989 reads: ‘India, through Indian media, is claiming that it has not stopped supply of essential commodities to Nepal. But even goods purchased before the blockade remain stranded on the Indian side.’
5. Newspapers back then too had published news about disruption in supply of medicines and medical equipment.
6. Newspapers currently face a shortage of newsprint paper. Newspapers back then were also forced to reduce pages.
7. Even during the 1989 blockade, politicians and intellectuals talked about the importance of being self-reliant. Newspapers gave ample space to articles carrying similar messages.
8. Nepalis living around the globe have been demonstrating against India’s blockade. In 1989, Nepalis demonstrated in front of the UN headquarters in New York urging the international community to put pressure on India to lift the blockade.
9. Nepal had tried to play the ‘China card’ even in 1989 by importing fuel from its northern neighbour. The 30 April issue of Deshantar reported that three tankers had reached Khasa from China.
10. Nepalis are criticising their leaders for ignoring lessons of the 1989 blockade. Newspaper clips from 1989 show Nepalis had lambasted their leaders even back then for forgetting the first Indian blockade of 1971.