Smuggling is rampant in the border areas of Morang district, under the protection of local Maoists. Businessmen smuggle out expensive timber to India and illegally import chemical fertilisers and textiles into Mahadeva, Jhurkiya, Burdanga, Dieniya, Rangeli, and Babiyabirta VDCs.
"The businessmen pay the Maoists a certain percentage and smuggle the goods without any interference," said Nityananda Laldas from Mahadeva VDC. The timber is said to come from the Char Kose Jhadi forest of Pathari, Urlabari, Mangalbare, and Kanepokhari.
One businessman who admits to smuggling timber and chemicals said, "No one has stopped us after we started paying the Maoists." He even claimed that he started the business on the recommendation of local Maoists. After he paid the Maoists, even the police do not interfere. Apparently, the Maoists have warned them there will be \'retaliation' if they create problems. Another businessman said the Maoists seize the goods of those who conduct business without their permission.
Although smuggling did stop briefly when the police checkpost in Jhurkiya was reposted two weeks ago, sources say that the Maoists threatened the police again, and the illegal trade resumed. The Maoists are said to have told the police to mobilise their patrols against looters and dacoits, but not interefere anywhere else.
Morang police chief ASP Gopal Bhandari said he wasn't \'fully aware' of these goings-on, but noted that the Maoists' comments were against the ceasefire code of conduct. Bhandari also stated that the police had information about smuggling taking place under Maoist protection in rural areas, but that in the current situation they were not keeping tabs on rebel activity. "The ceasefire monitoring committee should look into the matter. We have not gone against the code of conduct or shown any extra interest in the Maoists," he said. Shakti, a local Maoist leader in Jhurkiya countered by saying that smugglers were paying regional leaders in exchange for impunity.