Coronavirus | Bihar official’s letter sets off alarm bells

He has said, quoting intelligence input, that 40-50 COVID-19 infected Indian Muslims are likely to cross border from Nepal

Bihar’s Home Secretary has forwarded to the Union Home Ministry a letter sent by the District Magistrate of West Champaran warning that around 200 Indian Muslims, believed to be COVID-19 infected, are likely to cross the Indo-Nepal border into India.

“We’ve forwarded the letter to the Union Home Ministry and everything is under investigation,” Amir Subhani told journalists.

The State’s Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey said the letter was written based on verified information, but there was no evidence yet on the ground. “We’re in touch with our district superintendents in border areas and keeping a strict vigil on movement of people,” he said.

In the “confidential” letter (No: 1250, dated April 7, 2020) the District Magistrate Kundan Kumar asked his sub-ordinate officials to deal strictly with “any suspicious movement.” The letter refers to intelligence information received from the 47th Battalion of the Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) that a person named Jalim Mukhia from Nepal has been planning to spread Coronavirus in India.

Jalim Mukhia, The Hindu has learnt from various sources, was a local criminal involved in arms smuggling on the Indo-Nepal border. Several criminal cases are pending against him in local police stations in the border districts.

The District Magistrate, however, could not be contacted on the phone for his reaction. Local journalists quoted him as saying “it was a routine thing.”

On April 3, Commandant of the 47th battalion of SSB posted at Pantoka in Ramgarhwa on the Indo-Nepal border in West Champaran district had sent a letter (No 5039-40 U/2130) addressed to the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police alerting them to the “movement of suspected Corona positive Indian Muslim nationals from Nepal to India.”

“Input received from very reliable sources that one person, namely Jalim Mukhia, r/o Vill-Jagannathpur, Post—Janki Tola, P/S-Serwa, Distt-Parsa (Nepal), is planning to spread Corona pandemic in India. He is also involved in smuggling of Arms & FICN [fake Indian currency notes] from Nepal to India. Further, he has taken the responsibility to cross Indian Muslim nationals working in different Muslim countries during lockdown,” said the one-page letter marked “Confidential / Urgent.”

The letter quoting sources said around 200 Indian Muslims working in Muslim countries, along with a few Pakistani nationals, have arrived in Nepal via Kathmandu and were presently residing in mosque/madrasas at village Chandanbasra and Khairwa in Nepal.

It said these people were taking Paracetamol tablets to lower their temperature on the way and “they may be Corona positive.”

Earlier, in view of the mass exodus of Indians from Nepal after the lockdown, the border was sealed on March 30.

On April 2, a large number of Indian migrants gathered at the border and they were later quarantined in relief camps there.

However, many others are believed to have crossed the porous border at other points and reached their villages.

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