Nepal’s Citizenless Citizens
|Nepal’s Citizenless Citizens|
|Four million Madheshis lack basic rights|
By – Rupesh Silwal (rooproop)
Madheshi leaders in the historic city of Janakpur are warning that there will be a rebellion in southern Nepal if their community does not receive proportionate political representation.
The Madheshis, who face caste-based discrimination, live in Nepal’s southern region, a large area of arable plain called Madhesh.
Their political plight can be compared to that of the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Muslims in India, and the ethnic Nepalis in southern Bhutan. A report said that more than 70 percent of the state’s revenue is generated by the Madheshis yet their share of political power is less than five percent.
Madheshi leaders have been accusing Nepal’s government of continuing discrimination against their community.
One complaint is that Madheshi representatives have not been invited to participate in recent talks between the government and the Maoists. Another is that many Madheshis lack citizenship.
The government’s official figures say that 4 million Madheshis are without citizenship.
Without citizenship it is impossible to buy or sell land, apply for government jobs, colleges and universities, and even to obtain birth or death certificates.
Hence, a significant proportion of the 11 million Madheshis in Nepal are excluded from basic rights. They could be described as citizenless citizens!
The Madheshi community is regarded as the most backward in Nepal. The term Madheshi is often used as a derogatory expression and the Madheshis are very poorly represented in both the government and the army.
“If the Madheshi community is not given equal rights and citizenship before the election to a Constitutional Assembly, then this election will be unacceptable to us,” said Upendra Yadav, the chairman of Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (M.P.R.F.).
The Madheshis are just one group among many demanding a greater say in the new democratic Nepal. Women, the disabled, transgendered people, the younger generation, dalits and indigenous populations are all asking for their needs to be included in the new constitution.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs Chitra Lekha Yadav, herself a member of the Madheshi community, has said that lasting peace and stability is impossible without social justice and equal opportunities for all.
The new constitution is an opportunity to create a truly inclusive democracy. Now is the time to repair the damage caused by discrimination and look forward to a society where every group has full and equal political participation.
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