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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Nadia administration launches campaign to prod naturalised citizens, Iskcon devotees to vote

The initiative under the 'systematic voters’ education and electoral participation programme (SVEEP)” had been launched especially for Iskcon devotees from abroad, who have settled in Mayapur — the international headquarters of the global Vaishnab organisation — for years

Subhasish Chaudhuri Mayapur Published 25.04.24, 11:32 AM
Nadia district magistrate S Arun Prasad hands over to Fanny Tantavilca a brochure on election awareness.

Nadia district magistrate S Arun Prasad hands over to Fanny Tantavilca a brochure on election awareness. Picture by Abhi Ghosh

The Nadia district administration has launched a unique initiative to encourage foreigners, who have become Indian citizens through the process of naturalisation, to enrol their names on the electoral rolls.

The initiative under the “systematic voters’ education and electoral participation programme (SVEEP)” had been launched especially for Iskcon devotees from abroad, who have settled in Mayapur — the international headquarters of the
global Vaishnab organisation — for years.

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The district administration has also decided to launch Fanny Tantavilca, a woman devotee from Peru’s capital Lima, as the role model in this endeavour which comes amid the row over the CAA. Fanny became an Indian citizen in 2016 by “naturalisation” and is all set to exercise her franchise for the fourth time in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

“Despite her foreign origin, she has loved India and shown impeccable responsibility as a voter since acquiring citizenship which makes her quite different,” a senior official of the district administration said.

Citizenship by “naturalisation” is one of the four ways through which a person can acquire Indian citizenship under the provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955. If a person ordinarily resides in India for 12 years and fulfils all eligibility criteria in the third schedule of the Citizenship Act, he or she can acquire citizenship by “naturalisation”.

Sources in the district administration have said there are around 1,500 Iskcon devotees from different foreign countries, who have been staying for a long at rented houses and guest houses in Mayapur. Only a dozen of them have so far taken Indian citizenship by naturalisation. But, except a few, they are yet to appeal for enrolment as voters.

A spokesperson for the Iskcon’s headquarters in Mayapur told The Telegraph that only three persons, including Iskcon’s senior monk Jayapataka Swami, had so far been enrolled as voters.

The district administration has launched an outreach initiative to encourage such naturalised citizens to join the voting exercise under the SVEEP.

Speaking to The Telegraph, district magistrate S. Arun Prasad said: “Our objective is to encourage the Iskcon devotees from abroad who have taken citizenship by naturalisation to enrol as voters and to help them obtain voter identity cards. In this endeavour, Fanny Tantavilca is our role model”.

With this objective, the district administration launched a campaign in Mayapur-Nabadwip a few months ago. On April 17, it introduced Fanny Tantavilca during an awareness programme that was held at Shri Siddhanta Saraswati Primary School, a polling station in Mayapur in the Nabadwip block.

“It is a great moment for me. Now I feel like a complete Indian by heart”, Fanny Tantavilca told The Telegraph.

Fanny said she tried to encourage devotees like her from abroad staying for long in Mayapur to take Indian citizenship.

“But most of them are not ready to give up their nationality. It is their personal choice”, she said.

Fanny was fascinated by India as a young Vaishnab devotee during her early association with Iskcon in Lima. She arrived at Mayapur on a student visa to learn Vedanta literature, Gaudiya literature and other holy principles and eventually decided to take Indian citizenship.

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