Is Indian citizenship a threat to Tibetan cause?

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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 they considered Indians? No. Then what are they to the Indian government? Stateless foreigners. If that is the case, then on what ground 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, administrative or political positions or jobs in the civil sector, corporation business or election. Although things have started to change recently with an initiative from the Indian government as far as the policy of rights for the Tibetans in India are concerned but 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.

Majority of the Tibetans in India are surviving on a small piece of land with a few huts in it and by 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 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 also 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 to fight for Tibetan freedom. At face value, it 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 for Tibetans with Indian citizenship living in the west, for example, get Overseas Indian Citizenship status. Some Tibetans have already got it. With this status, you have every right that an Indian citizen can have except voting. And it does not stipulate that you cannot fight for Tibetan cause however vague it 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 every day Tibetans from becoming Tibetan Indians?

  1. It has recently ordered all the offices under its wings not to issue any Indian citizenship supporting documents to those Tibetans who reside in India. This is simply unbelievable.
  2. It has also manipulated the Indian authorities to kick all Tibetan Indians out of the Tibetan settlements on the pretext that they are no longer refugees. Are Tibetans then given settlements because they are refugees? Hell no. But on humanitarian ground.

This preemptive strike from CTA is what Tibetans aspiring to be Indians fear most. You lose

  1. Rent free 8 acres of land in the Tibetan settlements for a family of 10,
  2. And 4 rent free hut bedroom on 18000 square foot plot with backyard and front yard
  3. And also, all the new brick modern two to four-story homes, gardens, garage and swimming pools they built with money from their relatives in the west
  4. Cheap electricity and water bills.
  5. And tons of nature, wildlife and fresh air in the rural areas.
  6. Also, Tibetan Indians will lose the right to enjoy any benefit from CTA be it political or administrative positions, jobs, aid, scholarship, election etc. simply because they are Tibetan Indians.

However, CTA or Indian authorities must not and cannot remove Tibetan Indians from the settlements because

  1. They are still humans,
  2. And they are still very poor. As much as we hate to admit it, this is a fact. This is not about driving Mercedes around and collecting welfare checks. If you go to any Tibetan settlements and ask a Tibetan to produce Rs 10,000 ($150) you will only find him scratching his head looking up toward the heaven for help.
  3. Besides, Tibetans have worked the land, have a social history and connection to the land they lived on for nearly six decades.
  4. The Tibetan population who are eligible for Indian citizenship is less than 50,000 which is a drop in the ocean of Indian population and resources.
  5. Not heeding to this demand will result in thousands of Tibetan Indians going homeless. Obviously, such a state of affairs will not contribute anything to the Tibetan cause.

In defense, CTA parrots several major excuses for its discriminatory policy that

  1. Tibetans in India enjoy all the rights that an Indian citizen enjoys except that Tibetans cannot participate in elections. 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 for the rock bottom.
  2. Tibetans in countries other than India have no choice but become citizens. This is not true either. If Tibetans choose, they can hold on to their asylum status or to a green card for life. Just don’t take the citizenship test and you remain as you are.
  3. That it is Indian government’s policy and that CTA can do nothing but respect it. This is how CTA washes its hands off the Indian immigration policy 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 Majnuka-tilla, Old Delhi some years ago and beaten up and socially ostracized. Tibetans hate dark skin. And once the makeup gets washed down 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:

  1. Form an organization called Tibetan Indian organization(TIO) and do the following soon.
  2. Create a community of strong bonding through mutual help and understanding
  3. Petition CTA for a change in the policy and
  4. Contact media and organize street protests.
  5. Organize unto death hunger strike to draw the attention and support of the Indian public
  6. Let the international community and world leaders know what the CTA is doing to them through self-immolation. One self-immolation per month for the next six months and then once every two weeks and then one every week.
  7. As the organization grows bigger and bigger over the coming years, and if by then CTA refuses to budge, issue an ultimatum. Be fair and fulfill the demands or two things can happen: –
  8. a) That CTA will be seen as an agent of China and therefore fit to be booted out by any and all means.
  9. b) Sever ties to anything CTA completely. This may seem like the old woman mad for 9 years at the pre-1959 Tibetan lama government for the injustice she suffered at their hands, and when she died, the then Tibetan government didn’t even know it! But when you do it in large numbers, CTA will be left with no choice but to fulfill your demands. CPC or CTA, an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Zero tolerance!

Following are the reasons why Tibetans in India want Indian citizenship:

  1. CTA shipped 1000 Tibetans to the US in the early 1990s
  2. CTA shipped 2000 Tibetans to Switzerland in the 1970s
  3. CTA shipped 1000 Tibetans to Canada from 2011 t0 2015
  4. Over 40,000 Tibetans are now living in the west
  5. Tired of surviving on a tiny farm that witness loss every other year
  6. Tired of rearing cattle because milk is cheaper than bottled water and therefore no profit
  7. Tired of selling sweaters in the dusty dirty streets of Indian cities
  8. Tired of being treated as second-class citizens because you have no citizenship from any country
  9. Hard to travel on IC (Identity Certificate) when it could be changed to TD (Travel Document)
  10. Many in the exile Cabinet and the Parliament have foreign passports
  11. CTA abandoned independence struggle since 1974 and officially in 1988
  12. No so-called Genuine Autonomy is in sight
  13. No secular multi-party system is implemented and therefore no proper representation for the public. It is still a government or administration of, for and by the monks and punks
  14. The status of Tibetan Government in Exile is reduced to Central Tibetan Administration
  15. The status of Sikyong or Prime Minister is reduced to the President of a Taxi Union and thereby undermining the political status of our movement
  16. Remaining stuck in the grinding poverty in India is not helping the cause nor our families.
  17. Last but not the least, it is CTA’s policy to keep us poor and dependent on the CTA so it can control us and use us for their worldview at best and for their ulterior motives at worst.

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