Balen Shah : Controversy Surrounds Mayor Of Kathmandu's Decision To Display 'Greater Nepal' Map

Controversy surrounds Kathmandu mayor's display of 'Greater Nepal' map as a symbolic counter to India's 'Akhand Bharat' mural.
Jwala Gurung
Balen Shah : Controversy Surrounds Mayor Of Kathmandu's Decision To Display 'Greater Nepal' Map
The mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Balendra Shah, has ignited a constitutional and legal debate with his recent decision to display a map of 'Greater Nepal' in his chamber. This move is seen as a symbolic counter to India's installation of the 'Akhand Bharat' mural in its new parliamentary building in New Delhi. 

While Shah claims that it is a gesture to honor Nepal's proud history and promote nationalism, constitutional experts argue that his decision goes against the letter and spirit of the constitution.

The map of 'Greater Nepal' represents territories that were part of the Nepali state before the Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, following the Anglo-Nepalese war between Nepal and British India

It encompasses areas that currently fall within Indian territory, such as regions from Teesta in the east to Sutlej in the west. Proponents of 'Greater Nepal' advocate for the return of these lands to Nepal.

However, critics argue that an elected representative, like Mayor Shah, should adhere to the approved map specified by the constitution of Nepal. Bipin Adhikari, an expert on constitutional affairs, asserts that using an unofficial map contradicts the constitutional obligations of elected officials.

The controversy has spilled over to the diplomatic sphere, with India's External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, stating during a press conference in New Delhi that the 'Akhand Bharat' mural depicts the extent of the Ashokan Empire and is a cultural representation rather than a political one. 

Jaishankar suggests that friendly countries, like Nepal, have understood this explanation, while insinuating that Pakistan lacks the capacity to comprehend it. This statement has further fueled the debate and strained relations between Nepal and India.

Noted cartographer Buddhi Narayan Shrestha has also criticized Mayor Shah's decision, emphasizing that as an elected mayor of Nepal's capital, he should be mindful of his position and avoid actions that may escalate tensions between the two countries. 

Shrestha urges Shah to respect and follow the constitution. The border dispute between Nepal and India has been a long-standing issue, with Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura at the center of the contention. 

In November 2019, India issued a new map that included these areas within its territory, disregarding Nepal's claims. In response, Nepal released its own map in May 2020, asserting its sovereignty over the disputed regions. 

This disagreement has strained bilateral ties between the two countries. While the government of Nepal has not issued a formal response to India's 'Akhand Bharat' mural, opposition party CPN-UML and senior leaders from the ruling Nepali Congress have already rejected the Indian installation. 

Gagan Thapa, the general secretary of Nepali Congress, has called for Nepal to publish its own map of 'Greater Nepal' in response. The controversy has now extended beyond Mayor Shah, as the mayor of Dharan Sub-metropolitan City, Harka Sampang, has announced that his office will also display a map of 'Greater Nepal.' 

Sampang's decision adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing dispute. As the debate rages on, it is clear that Mayor Shah's decision has sparked significant controversy and raised crucial constitutional and diplomatic questions. 

The outcome of this debate and its impact on Nepal-India relations remain to be seen, but it is essential for elected representatives to prioritize constitutional obligations and work towards resolving disputes through dialogue and diplomacy rather than symbolic gestures.
Balen Shah : Controversy Surrounds Mayor Of Kathmandu's Decision To Display 'Greater Nepal' Map

The day has come for India to once again read the history of Nepal and understand it better. If the they leave the country with whom the Sugauli Treaty was signed, then who will the land be after cancelling the treaty?

I would especially like to thank the Mayor of Kathmandu, Balen Shah for once again reminding the whole world of the history of our country, Nepal. I am ready to die and kill for my country anytime.
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