The first time I arrived in Susta, I had to walk for around three minutes from the riverbank and across a sandbar to get to the village. There were two small huts there, selling tea and fish. Some months later, when I arrived again in Susta, there were no huts. When I asked where the huts were, a local woman, pointing towards the river, said, “Somewhere there.”
The settlement of Susta was once perched firmly on the west bank of the Narayani River, long considered the border between Nepal and India. But the river has changed course, cutting persistently into Nepali territory. Susta today finds itself on the east bank of the Narayani. India maintains that the new course of the river is the international boundary while Nepal disagrees. Susta, thus, remains contested—claimed by Nepal, hemmed in on three sides by India and on the other by the Narayani.
There is the ‘Save Susta Campaign,’ a local movement protesting Indian advancement, but locals are more concerned about the advancing Narayani river. Every monsoon, the Narayani expands further, eating into hundreds of hectares of farmland. “How many battles must we fight?” asks Laila Begum, a Susta local.
This is a petition to the people of Nepal, and the world, for change in Susta. A resolution of the dispute between the two countries and the building of retaining walls along the banks 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
Editors’ Note: Photo Kathmandu, the newest addition to the international photography festival circuit, is launching in November 2015. The first edition of the festival aims to serve as a platform for interaction between photography, history, anthropology and a wide array of the arts.
LensCulture is proud to be partnering with Photo Kathmandu by presenting a series of preview articles from the festival’s program. We hope you enjoy!