Tibetans in India get voting rights after 55 years

An Indian woman voter shows her ink-marked finger

An Indian woman voter shows her voting card, and her ink-marked finger as proof of voting at a polling station after casting her vote for Delhi Assembly elections, at Tuglakabad in New Delhi, on 4 December 2013. File photo/PTI/Atul Yadav

By Shalini Nair

MUMBAI, India, 13 February 2014

The Election Commission (EC) has ordered all states to include children of Tibetan refugees in the electoral list. This is for the first time in 55 years that voting rights will be conferred on Tibetans in exile in the country.

According to the orders dated 7 February, children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955, can no longer be denied enrollment in voters’ list.

The move on part of the EC comes in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees.

There are about 120,000 Tibetan refugees currently living across the country with their largest settlement being in Bylakuppe in Karnataka.

The Tibetan parliament-in-exile is based in Dharamshala elected by a 90,000-strong voter base spread across 53 settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The EC’s move evoked mixed reactions from the community with several pro-Tibet activists terming this as a relief for Tibetan refugees who are currently deemed “stateless”.

Karma Yeshi, a member of Tibetan parliament-in-exile, said, “Our aim is not to settle in India, but to eventually go back to Tibet. However, we cannot stop people from asserting their citizenship rights.”


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