Debate on citizenship issue


On 22 June, the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee endorsed an amendment bill on the citizenship Act 2063, with the provision that foreign women married to Nepali men will have to wait for 7 years to acquire naturalised citizenship. The bill has been under consideration in the federal parliament for around two years witnessing some ups and downs, ifs and buts.

The main opposition Nepali Congress and the newly formed Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) objected to the provision saying it was against the provision of the interim constitution 2006 and the Citizenship Act that allow foreign women to acquire naturalised citizenship immediately after getting married to Nepali men. Despite the objection of two opposition parties represented in parliamentary committee, it endorsed that provision and now it is waiting for the House approval.

At the backdrop of this decision of parliamentary committee was the resolution of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which on 20 June had taken the decision of 7 years considering the potential future threat to national interest. Why didn’t Nepali Congress support this provision? It’s not clear. But JSP, formed by the unification of two parties - Federal Socialist Party (FSP) and National Socialist Party (NSP), seems to have internalised the fear that this provision might demolish the age-old matrimonial relationship especially between the people of adjoining Terai belt. Senior leader of JPS, Rajendra Mahato’s statement hinted at this. ‘’It is an attack on the sentiments of millions of people living in the bordering areas where people from both sides have matrimonial relationship’’ he said, ‘’It seems Singha Durbar is for breaking people-to-people relations’’.

Nepal’s proposed citizenship law also envisages issuing residential citizenship to the foreign brides until they receive the naturalised citizenship. This document will be useful to them to exercise seven different social, cultural and economic rights. They will be allowed to run and earn from businesses, use and sell any fixed and movable assets, make profits from business and get involved in transactions of property of any kind.

As per the amendment proposal, the foreign brides can also get vital events such as marriage, divorce and migration registered. The residential document also becomes helpful for them to receive services and privileges. Gaining education and exercising social, cultural and economic rights will not be a problem. The only limitation is that they will not be allowed to exercise political rights and work as civil servants.

Despite the fact that Nepal and India have enjoyed cordial relations since time immemorial, the former is capable of formulating its own laws and implementing them for its own benefit. In many cases, the issuance of naturalised citizenship has given rise to crimes, caused social disorders and increased the tendency of fake marriages and relationships, solely to achieve the citizenship. The proposed citizenship law should not be taken otherwise. It aims to protect the nationality and national sovereignty. So, the government’s fresh effort to introduce the revised citizenship law should be taken positively.

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