Ripples Of Naturalised Citizenship Issue

Narayan Upadhyay


The issue of citizenship has sent a new round of ripples in the country’s political arena. The “leaked” draft of constitution amendment, alleged to have prepared by the Madhesi party supporters, had sought all kinds of constitutional positions for the naturalised citizens, who have lived for ten years in the country. No party has so far owned up the leaked draft, but the very issue of the naturalised citizenship getting eligible for constitutional posts has found a wider coverage in the Nepali media.

This alleged constitution amendment draft after its leak in the media received a widespread condemnation and has forced all political parties to make their stance clear on the issue. Leaders of all hues and stripes came forward to criticise the proposed amendment seeking the naturalised citizens holding all constitutional positions such as of president, prime minister, speaker, chief justice and of other constitutional bodies.

Many who rapped the proposed amendment on the naturalised citizens stated that the provision would undermine the Nepali nationality and can prove detrimental to the nation’s integrity and sovereignty. They also pointed out that the provision would place a naturalised person at par with all the Nepalis who are the citizens of this nation through their descent. If the provision is endorsed through the House, the bona fide Nepali citizens will have to compete with those who have become the citizens of the nation by staying here for only ten years in holding key constitutional posts.

One of the reputed leaders of the CPN-UML, Jhalnath Khanal, berated the naturalised citizenship provision stating that any foreigner with naturalised citizenship can enjoy constitutional positions and may work against the national interests. The main opposition party, CPN-UML, of whose leaders are against several demands of the Madhesh-centric parties, has emerged as a major detractor of the proposed citizenship provision in the “leaked” amendment draft. Almost all of the party leaders have hinted that they would not support the provision of the naturalised citizens getting key constitutionals posts under any cost. The party has even announced that it would not allow the endorsement of the draft even it is tabled in the Parliament.

Leaders of ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) have stated that they are against the proposed constitution amendment giving rights to the naturalised citizens for holding the constitutional positions. Shekhar Koirala of the Nepali Congress spoke against the proposed provision on the naturalised citizenship and stated that the provision of citizenship that was included in the Interim Constitution granting the naturalised citizens to have top constitutional posts was a mistake and the correction was made in the new constitution.

Interestingly, it has become a common phenomenon for our parties, including the Maoist Centre and their leaders, that they have often voice their strong reservations against the proposed amendment granting the naturalised citizens key constitutional posts, but the two ruling parties have been found holding discussions with the Madhesi Morcha on the issue of naturalised citizenship along with other Madhesis demands such as the redrawing of provinces in Terai and including parts of the Terai districts- Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari in the east and Kailali and Kanchanpur in the west. Also, the issue of the languages which would serve as the official and working languages of the provinces have also been proving a headache for the participants of the recent discussions with the Madhesi and United Federal Front in which various regional hill based parties are also a component.

Of many demands of the Madhesi parties, the demand for granting the naturalised citizens to hold constitutional posts have raised the heckles of all the Nepalis with nationalist fervour. The media coverage of the issue reflects the sensitiveness of the general masses regarding the issue. It is generally perceived that there are many Madhesi leaders in the Terai based parties who have the naturalised citizenship. These leaderss are said to have raised the demand that the naturalised citizens too should be allowed to hold constitutional posts. All these leaders have arrived in Nepal from India and are of Indian descent.

Many believe that the issue of naturalised citizens getting rights to hold constitutional positions has also been pushed ahead by our southern neighbour, often criticised for trying to micromanage the Nepali affairs. During the time of India’s undeclared blockade last year, the Indian side had raised this issue prominently. In an allegedly leaked report, the Indian Express had reported about the seven key Indian demands, which the Indian establishment later denied to have made. Many think that the Madhesi parties have raised the citizenship issue after they got support from India and are likely to press the ruling coalition to address this particular demand while they sit for the serious discussion with the ruling coalition led by the Maoist Centre.

After the recent leak, the ruling coalition parties and its leaders have gone on defensive, citing they would not back the proposal on the naturalised citizenship. However, they would have hard time during the dialogue with the Madhesi parties, who have lent their significant support for the formation of the present government. It is believed that the Indian side too has been pressing the parties to listen to its urges on the naturalised citizenship and the ruling parties will have hard time in convincing the Madhesi parties and others that the inclusion of the provision allowing the naturalised citizens all the rights enjoyed by the bona find Nepalis receiving citizenship by their descent would backfire on the parties. In the meantime, the major opposition party, the UML, is dead against the inclusion of this provision in the new constitution, which would make the task for the ruling coalition and the Madhesi parties even difficult.

In the final analysis, after witnessing the persisting hue and cry over the issue, one can easily state that allowing the naturalised citizens to have rights to hold constitutional posts would certainly be a bad idea for the parties. It would certainly anger a large number of masses, not only of hill but also some those who belong to the Nepal’s Terai who are the citizens of the country by descent. There are reports that Many Terai based leaders are against the proposed provision. In the meantime, the issue would create further difficulties given the fact that Nepal can have naturalised citizens from other countries, apart from India. The inclusion of the contended citizenship provision would also allow people from other nations to enjoy the same rights, which may not be acceptable to the bona fide citizens of the nation. The parties engaged in discussion to address the Madhesi demand would certainly find the proposed provision a hard nut to crack.

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