Nepal: questions of identity
The Nepali government announced that all Nepali citizens will be provided with a national Identity Card. However, members of religious minorities will have to submit to greater scrutiny to obtain their papers.
The government plan also calls for Christians, Christian converts and Muslims to “reconsider their faith” before applying for their Identity Card (ID). Members of religious minorities will be asked in fact to reiterate their faith before registering for their ID papers. In case no religious affiliation is expressed, they will be registered as Hindus.
For Christian rights activist CB Gahatraj, “By discriminating on the basis of the national identity card, the government is trying to discourage us and those who wish to convert. This is against the law, democracy and civil rights. Hence, I think the government should change and rectify its position.”
However, for Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, “It is not about discrimination” because “Everyone will be able to obtain the papers.” As he sees it, the problem is that “It takes a few days to fill out the forms with all the details, including religion”.
Ultimately, “We cannot deliver all the documents at once,” he explained, because “It takes time to register all the data.” At the same time, “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.”
This comes as thousands of Hindus have converted without compulsion to Christianity over the past few years.
Indeed, “No one is forced to embrace the Catholic faith,” said Catholic Bishop Mgr Anthony Sharma, “but when someone is blessed by God’s grace, we cannot deny him or her our support.”
For Rev Isu Karki, a Christian pastor, no one should judge and offend the faith of others. Instead, the government should provide all minority groups the same national identity card using the same procedures. All citizens are equal and there is no place for biases based on religion.
Nurul Hassan, a member of the Muslim community, agrees. “We respect the Hindu majority in this country, but we cannot tolerate any discrimination against us and our beliefs. Every citizen has the right to choose freely their religion.”
As all religious minorities join in solidarity the fight against all forms of government discrimination, they call on the authorities to rectify immediately the recently announced procedures.