Protesters turn up heat over citizenshipThey call for immediate implementation of the recently endorsed bill to amend the law.
Given the delay in the implementation of the amended citizenship law, stateless youths have escalated their protests in Kathmandu. On Tuesday, when those youths protested in front of the Supreme Court, police cracked down and detained as many as 34.
“Police intervened in our peaceful protest,” said Indrajeet Safi, who leads the Citizenship-less People’s Struggle Committee.
The agitated youths have been protesting at Maitighar ever since the Supreme Court issued an interlocutory interim order, asking the authorities not to enforce the new amendment to the Citizenship Act authenticated by President Ramchandra Paudel. On June 4, a single-judge bench of Justice Manoj Sharma issued the order after hearing a writ petition filed by senior advocates Surendra Bhandari and Bal Krishna Neupane.
The demonstrators have been demanding an immediate implementation of the recently-endorsed bill to amend the Citizenship Act.
The hearing of the case related to the bill was postponed on Tuesday. The case was listed to be heard by the bench of justices Prakash Kumar Dhungana and Manoj Kumar Sharma.
Since justice Sharma had previously issued an interlocutory interim order, he could not sit in the hearing to discuss the interim order.
As justice has been delayed, the protesters, arriving in the Capital from different parts of the country, especially from Tarai, have launched Satyagraha as well.
Following Tuesday's crackdown, the agitated protesters chanted slogans against the police administration.
One of them, Ganesh Kumar Mahato, 21, arrived in Kathmandu seven days ago from Mahottari, to join the protest. Since then, he has been regularly attending protests at Maitighar.
Mahato is himself stateless. His father has citizenship by birth, but he has been denied the citizenship certificate.
“They are politicising the citizenship issue, denying our basic rights. Having passed grade 12, I now want to sit in the public service exam. But given the lack of citizenship, I am unable to do so,” Mahato said. “No one cares about our lives and future. We will continue the protest so long as our demands are not met.”
Another protester, Komal Kumari Timalsina, born in Kavre Bethanchowk, got married at the age of 17. Two years later, her husband went out of contact. She waited for him to come back so they would proceed together to get their daughter’s birth certificate. But her husband never turned up, denying her daughter both birth certificate and citizenship. Timalsina too has come to Kathmandu, seeking justice. Her daughter has already completed her Bachelor’s third year, and plans to study abroad. For that, she needs a citizenship certificate.
“She could not even get the Covid-19 vaccine. The government and its relevant agencies should check the details and history of its citizens, and give us our rights,” Timalsina said. “The bill gives us hope, but the delay is frustrating.”
As the protests have escalated, some unfortunate incidents have also been reported from across the nation.
Niraj Kumar Jha from Morang killed himself on June 13 after he was repeatedly denied a citizenship certificate and the economic condition of his family deteriorated.
A few days back, Niraj Kumar Kamat from Katahari, Morang, attempted to set himself on fire at the Maitighar protest site. In the nick of time, the police intervened and stopped him.
As the amendment has become law with the President’s seal, it clears the path for thousands of children of parents who have got citizenship by birth, to acquire citizenship by descent. The Act allowed everyone born within Nepal’s territory before April 12, 1990 to acquire citizenship by birth. However, their children have been denied citizenship by descent citing the absence of law. The constitution says the provision to grant them citizenship would be guided by a federal law.
Advocates and civil society members have been supporting the protests in Kathmandu.
Addressing the protest, advocate Raman Karna said: “Everyday, we hope that the citizenship issue will be resolved. But it is painful to see justice being repeatedly delayed.”
Karna supports the formation of a front including lawmakers to support the stateless. And until justice is given, they should not let Parliament run. “You are on the streets, we are in the court. We will keep fighting from all sides. If the court does not ensure justice, we too are ready to come to the streets, leaving the courts,” he said.