By Mila Rangzen
NEW YORK CITY, US, 7 August 2017
Tibetans have been living in India as what they call themselves “refugees” since 1959, after the original Middle-Way Approach that began in 1951 and which was subsequently rejected by China with a barrage of guns, artillery, and bombs.
Does India regard Tibetans in India as refugees? No. Are the Tibetans considered Indians? No. Then what are they to the Indian government? Stateless foreigners. If that is the case, then on what grounds are Tibetans given separate settlements on lease in many parts of India? On stateless foreigners ground? No. Then on what? On humanitarian ground. Well, that is the definition of the Tibetan situation in India.
Tibetans in India have no rights whatsoever, including no land or property ownership, no administrative or political positions, no jobs in the civil sector or corporation business, no election. Although things have started to change recently with initiative from the Indian government as far as the policy of rights for the Tibetans in India are concerned, on the ground not much has changed. Most state offices are not even aware of this change, and that drags the process hard and long, often ending in denial.
The majority of the Tibetans in India are surviving on a small piece of land with a few huts on it, and doing mainly footpath business selling Ludhiana sweaters in Indian cities. Obviously, Tibetans are dying to get out of this sorry state by moving to the West, particularly to the US, and also by applying for Indian citizenship for growth, security, and equality. India has started issuing Indian citizenship to those Tibetans born in India from 1959 to 1987 and their children if they choose to apply.
But there is an obstacle on the path. It is the Central Tibetan Administration!
On the surface, CTA has said time and again that it would help by giving supporting documents to those Tibetans who want to apply for Indian citizenship, and that at the same time it would not compel Tibetans to take to Indian citizenship. Fair enough.
But the fact is, CTA is dead set against Tibetans becoming Tibetan-Indians. Why?
One major argument put forward is that once Tibetans in India become Tibetan-Indians, we will lose the legitimacy of fighting for Tibetan freedom. At face value, this seems like a good reason, but underneath the surface it is a pure lie, and double standard too. For example, Tibetan-Americans, Tibetan-Canadians, or Tibetan-English face no such problems. They are actually at the forefront of peaceful street protests. Jews around the world fought for freedom with foreign passports in hands, and today they have an independent state of Israel.
Two, Tibetan-Indians will lose access to all the CTA benefits, including the right to live in Tibetan settlements and political positions. Again, this does not apply to Tibetans with foreign citizenship other than Indian citizenship. Those Tibetans who are Americans, Canadians, or even Nepalese, have the right and access to all the benefits mentioned above, but once you become Indians, it’s another story. Do you see the double standard here?
For instance, Lobsang Sangay, the president of the CTA, is a US citizen. Gyari Dolma, who enjoyed CTA positions such as that of Home Ministry, is an Indian citizen. She did not go through the citizenship process like the Tibetan journalist Lobsang Wangyal did. She bought it for Rs 50,000 twenty years ago, which is illegal. There are many such examples.
Three, the Indian government does not accept dual citizenship. That may be the case, but there is a way already in place such as Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status. And Tibetans with Indian citizenship living in the west, for example, can get Overseas Indian Citizenship (OCI) status. Some Tibetans have already got it. With this status, you have every right that an Indian citizen has except voting. And it does not stipulate that you cannot fight for the Tibetan cause, however vague that might be. There is no international law set in stone that with foreign passports, you cannot fight for the freedom of your home country. As long as you don’t collude with the enemy of your adopted country, it’s all well.
Now what is CTA’s strategy to prevent us everyday Tibetans from becoming Tibetan-Indians?
This pre-emptive strike from CTA is what Tibetans aspiring to be Indians fear most. You lose:
However, CTA or Indian authorities should not remove Tibetan-Indians from the settlements because
In defense, CTA parrots several major excuses for its discriminatory
This is absolutely not true. If this is true, why would Tibetans in Dharamshala buy land through benami deal which is a shaky deal? But desperation makes humans capable of doing anything because there is nothing to lose at rock bottom.
This is not true either. If Tibetans choose, they can hold on to their asylum status or to green card for life. Just don’t take the citizenship test, and you remain as you are.
This is how CTA washes its hands off the Indian immigration policy, which was manipulated by CTA in the first place.
This is not only discrimination to Tibetan-Indians, but racism towards Indians — our host.
A case in point, Tibetans who marry Indians or have an affair with Indians are looked down upon, sometimes paraded naked in public like the case in Majnu ka Tilla, Old Delhi, some years ago, and beaten up and socially ostracized. Tibetans hate dark skin. And once the makeup gets washed off by rain, Indians generally are dark. But when Tibetans marry white Americans or English or Canadians of European stock, Tibetan authorities have no problem. If this is not racism, then what is?
Denying Tibetan-Indians any CTA benefits, while letting Tibetan-Americans and Tibetan-Canadians gorge on CTA benefits, is a classic case of top-down discrimination based on citizenship. It is unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
What the Tibetan-Indians can do now:
Following are the reasons why Tibetans in India want Indian citizenship: