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Nepal to amend Citizen Law: How will this impact India-Nepal's roti-beti relations?

Under the newly proposed amendment, foreign women will be required to wait for 7 years before getting Nepali citizenship. 

Jun 22, 2020 12:37 IST
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A parliamentary panel in Nepal recently proposed an amendment in Nepal's Citizenship Act. Under the amendment, a foreign woman marrying a Nepali national will have to wait for 7 years to get naturalised citizenship.

The proposal has been opposed by Nepal's main opposition parties, which stated that it would inconvenience people living in Madhes where cross-border marriages are quite prevalent. The parties-  Nepali Congress (NC) and Janata Samajbadi Party (SJP)  also argued that the provision will badly impact Nepal's age-old 'roti-beti' relationship with India.  

India-Nepal roti-beti relations

The Madheshi are residents of Terai region in the south of Nepal at the foothill of the Himalayas on the border with India in Bihar. The people of this region share cross-border kinship with India. Very often, men belonging to this region marry women from India. 

What is the newly proposed amendment in Nepal's Citizenship Law?

As per the existing  Clause 5.1 of Nepal's Citizenship Act, all foreign women marrying Nepali men are entitled to get citizenship immediately. However, the newly proposed amendment will change this and the foreign women will be required to wait for 7 years before getting Nepali citizenship. 

Key Highlights

The new proposal seeking to change Nepal's citizenship rules has been pending before the Nepalese parliament as no decision was taken to change the Citizenship Act.

The ruling Nepal Communist Party’s Secretariat stated that it will support the 7-year waiting period for foreign women marrying Nepali men to acquire Nepali citizenship.

Nepali Congress, Nepal’s chief opposition party, has opposed the planned changes in the existing citizenship law stating the change will affect the families living in Nepal’s plains also known as the Madhes region.

The opposition parties claim that the changes will bring uncertainty and tension in society and families.

The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Nepal's parliament has given all parties five days to come to a decision on the same. 

The Nepali Congress is likely to register its note of dissent in front of the committee, as once the committee supports the new amendment, the bill is likely to pass through as Nepal's Communist Party enjoys a majority in the Parliament.

Madhesis oppose new amendment

The Madhesis claim that they are being discriminated against in Nepal’s diverse set up. Madhesi leader Rajendra Mahto stated that the community is not asking for equality of citizenship for foreign men marrying Nepalese women but at least foreign women marrying into the Nepalese society can be treated fairly.

Background

The new amendment proposal comes days after Nepal’s political parties put up a united front to pass a law to upgrade Nepal's political map to include three disputed Indian territories within its own. The move faced intense criticism from the Indian side, causing tensions between the two friendly neighbours. 

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