Kathmandu, December 21
Sonu Shakya, 18, of Pokhara, who lives with his ailing maternal grandparents, was denied citizenship because he failed to answer questions about his parents he had never seen.
All he knows of them is their names mentioned in his birth certificate. His parents divorced when he was two years old. He has been living with his maternal grandparents since.
Advocate Madhavi Pandey helped Sonu locate his father, who is now living with his second wife and two sons. But his father refused to acknowledge Sonu as his son.
Similarly, Alisa Shrestha of Biratnagar said despite the constitutional guarantee she was denied citizenship through her mother’s name. “I have seeking citizenship since I was 16. But all these years the local administration has been turning me away. I have seen four chief district officers come and go, but none of them helped me get my citizenship certificate,” said Alisa.
Sonu and Alisha are just representative of the hundreds of people who are facing difficulties in acquiring citizenship.
A study by Forum for Women Law and Development states that 900,000 eligible to receive citizenship are living with their single mothers. Likewise, around 70,000 people eligible to receive citizenship are living with their single fathers. More than 80 per cent of these people are facing difficulty acquiring citizenship.
At a conference on citizenship issues organised here today, more than a dozen people, who have been deprived of citizenship, shared their stories. The conference also passed a 19-point declaration, seeking an end to hassles for acquiring citizenship.
The declaration states that children born to a woman who holds a Nepali citizenship by descent must be provided citizenship even if the identity of the father remains unknown.
Similarly, the declaration also demands that children born of rape or children the identity of whose fathers remain known be provided citizenship without any mention of insulting terms like ‘father unidentified’.
Third gender people participating in the conference demanded that they be provided citizenship under their own chosen name and the government stop demanding medical report to identify their gender. Children adopted by third gender people are also facing problems acquiring citizenship.
People from the Madhesi community, on the other hand, said they were often accused of being foreigners.
Arjun Kumar Sah of Mahottari said he was denied citizenship although his father was a citizen by birth and his mother a citizen by descent. “I was born in Mahottari and raised in Kathmandu, but the government doesn’t recognise me as a citizen of this country.”
Sah said he was provided the voter ID card during elections on the recommendation of political leaders but the local administration was reluctant to issue him citizenship certificate. People living near the Nepal-India border said that the government even denied birth certificate to Nepali children born in Indian hospitals.
A version of this article appears in print on December 22, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.