Nepal's pro-Madhesi party threatens stir over citizenship row

Kathmandu: A Terai-based Madhesi party in Nepal on Friday threatened to launch an agitation against the government for failing to provide citizenship certificates to lakhs of Indian ethnic origin people living in the southern plains bordering India.

Upendra Yadav, the former Foreign Minister and president of People's Rights Forum (MPRF), opposed the preparation of voters' identity card without first distribution of citizenship certificates to lakhs of Madhesi residents, who are of Indian ethnic origin.

Yadav demanded halt to works for preparation of voter’s list as citizenship certificate is a must for enrollment on the voters' list.

He warned that if the government does not end the current drive, his party will launch an agitation to disrupt the exercise.

He said the process of registering name on the voters list should be immediately stopped as more than three million people of Terai region have been deprived of their citizenship certificates.

Talking to reporters in Nepal's eastern town of Biratnagar today, he alleged the government has been pursuing discriminatory policy with regards to the Madhesi people while registering names for distributing voters identity cards.

Nepal's Terai plains are home to about half of the country's 30 million people. The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the Madhesi-dominated southern plains have long been treated as second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites dominate politics, the security forces and business.

They have complained that the government has deprived lakhs of Madheshis of their citizenship certificates even though they have lived in the country for generations.

They have demanded greater economic and political rights, including more representation in the state structure.

Yadav said the works related with the voter’s list preparation should resume only after the completion of the works relating to the distribution of citizenship certificates following the formation of a new government.

The government began the campaign for distribution of voters identity card with digital photographs for the next election.

Three months after the 22-party coalition led by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal collapsed, nine rounds of poll have failed to elect a new leader. The country has been without a government since June 30, when Nepal stood down under intense pressure from the Maoists.

Nepali Congress leader R C Poudyal, the sole candidate for the post of Prime Minister, yesterday failed in his ninth attempt in a row to garner a majority in parliament, prolonging Nepal's political uncertainty.

The Madhesi parties together form the fourth largest block in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, which functions as the country's interim parliament.