Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship – 7 Considerations

By far the highest number of Tibetans in exile is in India, but their status in the country is confusing at best. The debate over Indian citizenship is important because of what it means for the future of the Tibetan refugees and Tibet. Here are a few considerations to think about deeply before this debate can be settled.

7. Being Stateless Leads to Human Trafficking

Another important factor to keep in mind is that being a stateless refugee with unclear status and unclear future prospects, makes people anxious. They try to seek whatever means they can to ensure their safety and security for their future. This has led to many people getting caught in the human trafficking ring and paying huge amounts of money only to get a 6 month tourist visa to the US. At the end of their visa tenure they have no one to guide them as to what to do and they are left to live miserably as an illegal immigrant.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

6. The Indian Citizenship Act

The Indian law already grants any Tibetan who was born in India between 1950 and 1987 to apply for Indian citizenship. The CTA has also acknowledged that they do not have the authority to stop any Tibetan from applying for Indian citizenship. If someone applies for Indian citizenship, their children are also applicable for the same. Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari won a landmark case in the Delhi High Court in 2010 that allowed her to get Indian citizenship and an Indian passport.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

5. Benefits of Indian Citizenship for Tibetans

There will be a lot of benefits if Tibetans can get Indian citizenship. They’ll be taken seriously by the politicians as a possible vote bank. They’ll be able to contest elections and become a part of the Indian government, a place from where they can give more support to the Tibetan struggle. They’ll get the civil rights that every Indian citizen gets. They’ll be able to gather for peaceful protests when Chinese dignitaries visit, which they can’t do right now as they don’t have this right as foreigners. And most of all, by owning land and businesses, they’ll be able to secure their future and continue the struggle for as long as needed.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

4. Tibetans with Citizenship of Western Countries

It’s not like those who went to US and other western countries and got the citizenship of those countries, have stopped being Tibetan or stopped supporting the Tibetan cause. In fact their dual citizenship allows them to fight more strongly for Tibetan independence from Chinese occupation. If citizenship is allowed for western countries then why not for India?

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

3. The Situation in Nepal is a Warning

Something similar has already happened in Nepal and that could happen in India too. Once HH Dalai Lama is no more in his present life, the stance of the Indian government could change. Especially considering the pressure Chinese government has been applying on India. The highest number of Tibetan refugees are in India and this needs to be taken into account while considering pros and cons of Indian citizenship.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

2. Tibetans in India are Foreigners not Refugees

When HH Dalai Lama came to India, his strong relationship with then Prime Minister of India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, helped to attain a place for the thousands of refugees who followed him into India. The Indian government has been very generous to the Tibetans but technically, it has never recognized them as refugees. Dalai Lama was called an ‘honored guest’ by Jawaharlal Nehru and today Tibetans are considered as foreigners not as refugees. This means that if the Indian government’s stance changes for the worse, it could seriously damage the Tibetan struggle.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

1. Tibetan Patriotism and Support for Tibetans Still in Tibet

The Tibetan Government in Exile and the Central Tibetan Administration have historically held the view that if Tibetans took Indian citizenship, it would demoralize the Tibetans that were still in Tibet. A sense of patriotism has stopped Tibetans from trying to get Indian citizenship in the past, but slowly this sentiment is changing and many Tibetans don’t see the act of getting an Indian passport as antipatriotic. In fact it might be necessary to ensure the survival of the Tibetan struggle against the Chinese occupation.

Tibetan Refugees and Indian Citizenship - 7 Considerations

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