Four Million Nepalese Are Denied Citizenship: Sarvendra Nath Shukla

SARVENDRA NATH SHUKLA, former minister and leader of Rashtriya Janta Party-Nepal, is a well established veteran politician from Madhesh. Having secured victory several times in the national parliament from Rupandehi district, Shukla, who is now a key figure of Madhesh based RJP-Nepal, spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various contemporary political issue. Excerpts:

Feb. 16, 2019, 11:01 a.m.

How long your party will support this government?

The activities of the last one year have shown that the government is not serious to meet our demands amending the constitution and solving the problems. Our party has already handed over a memorandum saying that we can withdraw our support at any time. As the government is ignoring their own words not bringing any bill, there is no option for us other than to pull out the support.

With two third of strength in its hand including the support from Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, don’t you think your support cannot change the status of the government?

Of course, our strength is not enough to pull down the government. However, it has a political and a moral part. They can ignore us showing the numerical strength but the government will lose remaining credibility and support in public.

How inclusive is this constitution as claimed by two major parties?

Just writing the word inclusive in the constitution does not guarantee inclusive society. The process of inclusiveness depends upon how state acts in reality. I don’t agree that this is an inclusive constitution. There lack two major elements. First of all, they had not taken adequate efforts during the writing of constitution. They wrote few words to show that the constitution is inclusive. Secondly, they ignore even the issues of citizenship. Even in the process of implementation of limited inclusiveness is concerned, the government is moving very slowly to pass bills. The persons and parties who involved in constitution making intentionally avoided making the constitution inclusive. As long as there remain large numbers of people excluded from the country, it is impossible to have prosperous and developed Nepal.

Why inclusiveness is important?

Only through the effective inclusive policies, you can avoid conflict in future and this is also a pre-requisite for the prosperity. There need to bring people to mainstream who are excluded in the past. There need to assure the people suffered from the exclusion policy the state and provide them proper opportunities. The present so called inclusiveness is incomplete and ineffective. What I say that the state has already derailed from its commitment to be inclusive society. If this continues, it will generate another phase of new conflict. You cannot visualize the conflict in surface but it is still beneath.

Do you mean the demands which your parties raised during the promulgation of constitution still persist?

The issues raised by us are not addressed. Even the written agreement signed by two major parties before the formation of the government is yet to be implemented. For instances, the government is yet to table a constitution amendment bill. They ignore our demands for full proportional representation, representative on the basis of population and provincial boundary. We have been insisting the amendment of constitution to make the constitution inclusive to accommodate all the excluded population. Only through this, you can prevent possible conflicts in hill and Madhesh. We have been pushing the government. However, the government and main opposition party Nepali Congress have not shown serious concern on the issue.

Given the large number of population in Madhesh and Hill are yet to receive the citizenship. How do you see the recent controversy raised by members of ruling party in the House of Representative on some the provisions of citizenship bill by the members and leaders of ruling party?

We have been saying for long that there are over four million stateless people in Nepal who are denied citizenship certificate by the state. The children of citizen of naturalize citizens, children of the citizens who have certificate of decent and a child who does not have a birth certificate are illegible for the citizenship. Similarly, the children of single mother denied the citizenship and children of those whose father is unknown. It seems that a section of racist people from hill are making efforts to put the conditions that will prevent genuine Nepalese to secure the citizenship. This section of people has arguing that foreigners will grab our citizenship if they do not put strict conditions. They are now in the parliament as a member of ruling NCP.

How do you see their argument?

They are irrational and racist. At a time when Nepal’s southern neighbor is making high economic progress, no Indian citizen can consider to take Nepalese citizenship worthy. Similar is with the citizen of northern neighbor China. A group of elite are acting like Nazis denying the right of citizenship arguing wrong presumption. In recent parliamentary debate so called ultra-nationalist of ruling parties are making every effort to deny the genuine rights of the citizens who born, grow and live in Nepal. This also indicates mockery of inclusiveness. How can you claim that your new constitution is most inclusive when such a large numbers of citizens of the country are denied all the services including education, health, commercial transaction denied by the state.

What do you want to say on citizenship?

As the government has made citizenship mandatory for day to day life, the government must provide citizenship certificate to those who born in Nepal and lives in Nepal.Without citizenship certificate, a child cannot go to school, hospitals and employment. This means whole lifeline of such individuals is blocked. Those who are poor particular Mushar, Dusadh,Chamar, Dom, Dhobi and other dalit in hill, ethnic communities like Santhal, Rajbanshi, Meche, and Koche of Madhesh have been suffering most. There are some population in Himal and Pahad as well. The history of world shows that the stateless persons always remain a threat to stability. Stateless population need to be given citizenship certificate. The leaders of ruling parties are linking citizenship certificate with nationalism. This is foolishness. In India and China, there are more opportunities available than Nepal. Even over 8 million Nepalese are currently working in India. They are making more money selling momo in India than here. The rulers want to continue the issue of citizenship. There need to solve the problem for ever.

The government claims that the state is inclusive since it holds the elections for all the three tires given equal opportunities to all. How do you look at it?

It is natural for ruling elites to claim. As I mentioned, just holding elections does not guarantee inclusiveness. There need to take action and implementation. Nepal has been holding the election since Panchayat and all later stages. However, the power always lie in center. Currently, even chief ministers of ruling parties have been blaming central government for not devolving power. During the constitution making, they ignore provinces giving more power to local level and center. There was only Madhesh based parties demanded more power to province in constitution making but now all chief minister ministers representing are demanding power.

How do you see the external relations of Nepal following the promulgation of new constitution and formation of this government?

The mindset of ruling elite and dominant political leaders of this country has not changed a much. They see a close neighbor with same civilization as a threat. For instance, Madhesh based Parties and Madheshi people called the blockade on our own and strength. The current Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and his party did not spare any time to blame India fanning anti-India feeling among its cadres. Although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested to make a new constitution inclusive and functional, these very leaders projected his sincere friendly advise as interference. Given the recent acts, the current government has failed to maintain good relations with none of the country including China, and European and U.S.

Sharbendra Nath Shukla photo.jpg

During the first tenure of Prime Minister K.P. Shrama Oli, Nepal’s relastions with India were badly deteriorated. How do you see Oli’s second innings.

First of all, all of us need to acknowledge the fact Nepal and India are politically two nations with one civilization. We share everything and we have many commonalities. The open border between Nepal and India symbolizes our closeness. People of Nepal know this reality very well and the relations at the people to people level remain cordial and brotherly. However, the problems lie at the political leaders and few elites of hills. For the sake of their individual interests and benefits, they have been exploiting the traditional and close relationship with India. In 2015, when Indian leaders and government suggested Nepalese political leaders to promulgate the new inclusive constitution, they used every possible means to condemn our brotherly neighbor and their leaders. Given our own experience dealing with Nepalese leadership including PM Oli, what I can say that they signs and commit everything to be in power but rarely concerned to implement them. PM Oli and his team have shown that they untrustworthy and unreliable not tabling constitution amendment bill as promised with us in written.

Do you mean there is yet to build the trust?

At a time when I cannot trust the words of our ruling elites and politicians, I don’t think any foreign leaders can trust them. Given their past behavior, what I can say sure that once PM Oli or Prachanda faced any political disaster, they don’t mind to blame India or international forces. They will use their well trained cadres to condemn them. Nepal’s political elites link power with relations and they hail neighbor till they remain in power.

But, Prime Minister Oli and his foreign minister have been repeatedly saying that the state to state relations back to normal?

I have already told you that Nepal and India have a unique relations existed over centuries at people to people level and no one can create any crack on it. However, the present lot of people in power does not believe on it as they have grown in anti-India schooling. They will again use same anti-India statement and try to play China card once out of power. People in power need to have firm understanding about the foundation of our relations and develop their convictions not on words.

Keshab Poudel

Keshab Poudel

Poudel is the editor of New Spotlight Magazine.

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