Ethnic Politics, Madheshi Uprisings and the Question of Citizenship in Nepal

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Krishna PANDEY, South Asian University, India
Nepal, formerly an only Hindu kingdom in the world and now a federal republic in making, first introduced citizenship law in 1952 to identify its citizens and non-citizens in the dawn of first municipal election held in 1953. Since then citizenship laws and constitutional provisos have passed through controversies, debates and disagreements. The main dissidents of these laws and constitutional stipulations are the Madheshis (Indian-origin ethnic group) living in the Tarai (southern plains) adjoined with Indian border. They have been expressing the dissent in various forms since the 1950s, which has now achieved the strength even to impede the national political course. The crux of the problem rests not in the articles and clauses of these laws and constitutions per se but on sociological debates on immigrant-native settlers contestation. The Madheshis due to their ancestral and cultural connection with north Indian people do not appear 'true' Nepalis for the non-Madheshis; simultaneously, the non-Madheshis (hill-origin ethnic group) of the Tarai are the 'encroachers' for the Madheshis. This form of immigrant versus native settlers debate first surfaced in the 1950s and burst out in 2007 in the form of Madheshi uprising that brought substantial shift in the discussion on the Nepali citizenship laws, particularly related with the naturalization. In this context, I try to unearth the trajectory of problem that the citizenship discourse has gone through on the backdrop of Madheshi identity formation and ethno-political contestation in the Tarai with reference to the constitutional provisions and other legal stipulations.