Sobhraj figures in Nepal’s citizenship debate

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu: More than five months after he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by Nepal’s Supreme Court, yesteryear’s alleged serial killer and master conman Charles Sobhraj may be out of limelight but not forgotten.

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The 66-year-old French national’s name made it to the news once again Tuesday when a veteran communist politician cited his case to prove a point.

As Nepal rushes towards a new constitution by May 28, one of the most contentious issues is the subject of granting Nepali citizenship.

Though a broad agreement was reached among the major parties to give citizenship to a foreigner marrying a Nepali, it is now under dispute once again for diverse reasons.

Narayan Man Bijukchhe, chief of Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, is opposing granting citizenship to foreigners who marry Nepali women.

Bijukchhe’s party, though small, has been able to keep the Bhaktapur district under its sway despite a pro-Maoist wave during the 2008 election.

“At this rate, Nepalis will become a minority in Nepal,” Bijukchhe said at a public programme Tuesday.

“Sobhraj is a son-in-law of Nepal and so is Rubel Chowdhury. All sons-in-law will become Nepali citizen and one day, (being a Nepali citizen) Sobhraj can also become Nepal’s president.”

It was also a dig at the controversial backgrounds of Sobhraj, who claims to have married a Nepali woman more than 40 years his junior even when he was behind bars, and Chowdhury, who is married to the daughter of Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala.

Chowdhury has been the target of the local media since he became embroiled in a drunken brawl with Nepal’s deposed crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah.

The brawl landed the former prince in police custody for 48 hours, an unprecedented happening in Nepal’s history.

However, it boomeranged on Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi national, with allegations beginning to erupt about his involvement in several criminal activities.

Chowdhury has been living in Nepal with his family since his marriage.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])