Every state has an obligation to protect its citizens. This entails physical, social, legal and economic security of the people. The state is a guardian of the people. Its protection creates an enabling conditions for peace, justice and development, which constitute vital elements in ensuring a life of dignity, prosperity and happiness. The people have a sense of confidence and ownership of the governance system if it safeguards them against impending trouble and crisis that threaten their well-being, livelihood and basic human rights. Failure to guarantee their fundamental rights give rise to despair and disorder in the community. First and foremost, people should be granted citizenship that establishes legal bond between them and the state services. The citizenship certificate is the membership of the state, denoting which state s/he belongs to. Upon taking citizenship, s/he commits to constitution that underlines the rights and responsibilities of the citizens. It bolsters their allegiance to the state.
Rights that citizenship certificate ensures are not merely confined to rights to vote and hold public offices. They include legal rights to get health and education services, social security, employment, land and residency, among others. According to news report carried by this daily, a large number of local residents of Susta in Western Nawalparasi district have been deprived of citizenship. Around 3,133 people of 265 households live in Susta but only 295 individuals have obtained citizenship. Locals said around 1,600 people are eligible for citizenship. They have demanded the citizenship be provided through different process. In the absence of citizenships, the locals have been facing multiple problems. They could not buy SIM card and use mobile phone, work in Nepal or India, open bank accounts and get driving license.
Susta people's woes do not end here. The lack of citizenships has robbed them of the land ownership certificates. This is an irony that Susta people, who have been defending borderland against the encroachment by the southern neighbour for decades, have been denied their legal rights to receive citizenship papers. Susta spans over 40,980 hectares of land. Of this, Indian side has reportedly encroached 14,500 hectares. According to the Armed Police Force, Nepal border outpost (BOP) in Susta, around 19,980 hectares of land has been marked as disputed area. The locals have been using only 7,000 hectares. Of them, only 556 bighas of land are registered in the name of the local people. In 1977, the floods in Narayani River displaced a Village Panchayat comprising nine wards. As the changed river course separated the land, this gave an excuse for the southern side to encroach the Nepali land.
In process of protesting against the infringement, the Susta locals say that they are being harassed and threatened by the Indian security forces on a daily basis. The locals launched the Save Susta Campaign to draw the attention of the government with regard to the solution to the chronic border dispute. They have grown impatient as there is a delay in addressing their issues. Now they are mulling to knock on the door of the court if the government does not solve the dispute. They are now consulting the concerned stakeholders as to how the border issue should be dealt with. The dispute in the border area keeps on dragging while the locals continue to fight for their ancestral land. Susta people's call for justice is valid and the Nepal government should initiate diplomatic efforts to solve the border issue, and take administrative process to grant citizenships to them.