Nepal: Citizenship Ordinance – a victory for Madhes


May 25, 2021 2:47 AM STI

Kathmandu [Nepal], May 25 (ANI): The latest ordinance amending the Nepalese citizenship law, introduced by the President of Nepal Bidya Bhandari, indeed marks a historic phase in Nepalese politics and induces a sense of accomplishment among the Madhesis.
The essence and relevance of the ordinance, however, have been lost in the complex web of opposing political currents that the country has witnessed in recent days. The ordinance marks the end of a long Madhesi struggle over at least one of the many fundamental issues surrounding the granting of citizenship to a large number of Madhesis who were born in Nepal and entitled to citizenship.
This ordinance will probably benefit more than 5 lakh people who waited on the margins for such a law. There would also be a slowing effect on successive generations. With the issuance of the citizenship ordinance, among the Madhesi community there is a sense of relief with some hope that some of their other claims could be remedied as well, even though the last outcome was the outcome. of a political struggle at the center. .
Generations of madhesis have struggled over the years to gain the attention of successive rulers – from monarchs to political leaders, who have promised delivery on the issue of citizenship, but to no avail. The rulers of Kathmandu played with the feelings of the Madhesis exploiting their desperation to see their demands addressed while exalting nationalist sentiments in such a way as to reduce the space for the Madhesis to achieve their goals.
In the eyes of Kathmandu’s elite, madhesis have traditionally been viewed with suspicion and seen as an extension of India. Moreover, with the narrative of “anti-Indianism being Nepalese nationalism” forming the backbone of nationalist sentiments from time immemorial, the demands of the madhesi have gone unanswered as successive generations of politicians exploited madhesis to bind the country together on a nationalist agenda.
The reign of King Mahendra Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev from 1955 to 1972, for example, witnessed a form of Nepalese nationalism that relied on building a strong hill mentality (pahadi) bringing together culture, traditions and pahadi values ​​to the detriment of the other. ethnic groups and minorities.
This was intended to separate the Madhesis and other minorities from the rest of the population. Land ownership laws were implemented during this phase, which clearly discriminated against Madhesis as hordes of hill people, including those from North Bengal, were brought into the Terai region for s ‘install, thus cutting off the Madhesi population. The hope for respite among Madhesis in the form of an inclusive constitution that would solve their problems also lost momentum, with successive constitutions failing to solve their problems despite promises to the contrary.
There is a belief among Madhesis that despite the bitter differences between Communists and Democrats (Nepalese Congress), when it comes to Madhesi claims, all political parties have a unanimous opinion or rather the pahadis come together. It is for this reason that despite the coming to power of different parties from time to time, none of them has been able to solve madhesi’s problems.
Frustrated by the lack of support from various governments, the Madhesis have also staged protests over the years to attract the attention of the government in Kathmandu, but to no avail. The first sign of Madhesi political activism came to mind in 1959 when a party called the Terai Congress contested the country’s first national elections but lost miserably.
Subsequently, in the 1990s, a former Nepalese Congress leader named Gajendra Narayan Singh formed the Sadbhavana Party to defend the rights of the Madhesi. But it was not until 2007 that the Madhes movement really gained strength with months of street protests in 2007 and 2008, against political indifference to their plight. The delay in supplies from India in 2015 for several months, which ultimately created deep-rooted anti-Indian sentiments in Nepal, was also the result of a constitution that failed to respond to Madhesi’s demands.

Meanwhile, to ward off negative feelings, Madhesi rulers have done their part by being recognized and viewed as Nepalese first, and later as Madhesis when it comes to critical national security issues. For example, in June 2020, all Madhesi leaders enthusiastically participated in the vote on the constitutional amendment introducing the new map of Nepal.
The entire Madhesi leadership unanimously supported the new map, siding with the nation sending a clear signal that for them the nation was first. JSPN chief Rajendra Mahato actually delivered a fiery speech drawing the attention of all Nepalese to the decision of Madhesi leaders to support the map issue, despite Madhesi requests going unanswered.
Among the political parties, it was the RJP – a merger of six Madhesi parties that has recently come forward to push Madhesi demands, in addition to the Samajwadi party. Unfortunately, the caste-based politics that dominate the Madhes has made it difficult for Madhesi political parties to remain consolidated on Madhesi issues.
Against this background, the determination with which JSPN leader Mahant Thakur pursued the goal of solving the citizenship issue and setting up a task force to undertake a constitutional amendment, is a clear indication of his eagerness. to solve these problems while it continues to dominate the political space Madhesi. For Mahant Thakur personally, it has been a long journey from the days when madhesis were despised with utter disgust and hatred by the pahadis to a stage in 2018 where, as the oldest parliamentarian, he had the honor to open the first. session of Parliament under the Oli government.
He saw the days when madhesis traveling to Kathmandu had to carry a long, folded identity document that looked more like a passport, without which they were not allowed to enter the capital. These were times when madhesis were looked down upon, with the people of Kathmandu calling them “dhotiwalas” or using other derogatory terminologies. Stories abound of how applications for qualified madhesis jobs were categorically rejected and how special favors were given to pahadis over madhesis in selection processes.
It is therefore indeed a feeling of déjà vu that overwhelmed Mahant Thakur, Rajendra Mahato and the others with the entry into force of the ordinance on citizenship when it amounts to making history. They don’t care who dispenses justice as long as it serves the purpose of madhesis.
The celebrations that marked the Madhes Citizenship Ordinance show the tremendous positive story it has created in the Terai region. The move is also indicative of the government’s will and desire to tackle other similar issues associated with various marginalized communities such as Janjatis, Tharus, Gurungs, Limbus, etc. With the working group likely to be set up for a constitutional amendment by the Oli government, a second step would be taken in the Madhesis’ effort to fight for their demands.
While all the leaders who have gathered today to oppose Prime Minister Oli believe that the latter has spoken out on the issue of citizenship as part of a political compromise, the fact remains that all had the opportunity to address Madhesi issues, including the issue of citizenship. , at one time or another, but refrained from doing so for fear of being labeled anti-national.
In this sense, political analysts believe that credit should be given to Prime Minister Oli for mustering the courage to overlook all concerns to answer the question of citizenship. It is he who can also respond to other Madhesi requests after having calibrated the domestic feelings. The support given by Mahant Thakur and Rajendra Mahato to Prime Minister Oli has undoubtedly produced positive dividends for both sides. (ANI)


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