Dhumal asks Centre to introduce ID cards for Tibetans

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in a 30 May 2008 file photo, taken in Mcleod Ganj, India.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in a 30 May 2008 file photo, taken in Mcleod Ganj, India. Dhumal wants introduction of photo identity card for Tibetans in India. File photo/Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal/India

By Lobsang Wangyal

DHARAMSHALA, India, 8 January 2009

The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Prem Kumar Dhumal has asked the government of India to introduce photo identity cards to Tibetans living in the state, Indian media reports.

Speaking at the conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security organised by the Home Ministry, government of India, in Delhi on 6 January, Dhumal reported to the government that 23,000 Tibetan refugees are living in Himachal Pradesh, and that a mechanism was required to check their identity. The same was requested for the Nepalese population of 25,000 in the state.

He told the conference that the state Criminal Investigation Department and Intelligence Department are keeping a strict watch on the activities of the Tibetans, and asked the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to introduce a mechanism for security checks for the rest of the Tibetans in India.

He also said that the Himachal government is providing security to the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Karmapa Lama. He requested the Central government to fully reimburse the expenditure incurred by his government for the purpose.

Himachal Pradesh shares an inter-state border of over 1,100 kilometres with Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand, and has an international border with China extending over 200 kilometres in the east. The state is spending around Rs 12 crore (2,472,196 USD) annually on security, while the Central government provided only Rs four crore (824,000 USD) as assistance.

Tibetans live in India with a stay permit which is regulated through a document called a Registration Certificate (RC), issued by the government of India. Tibetans of age 16 and above must register for an RC. The permit has to be renewed every year. In some places it must be renewed every six months. However, the RC is not issued to newly-arrived refugees, making their lives uncertain and precarious.

The RC is normally used as the photo identity of Tibetans in India. It is also a prerequisite to process the travel document, a yellow booklet, called Identity Certificate, issued by the government of India. It normally takes one year to process the yellow book, but there are many cases of taking up to two years.

The Tibetan Welfare Officer of Dharamshala, Tsering Phuntsok, was of the view that the photo identity card may not necessarily be useful.

“RC is photo identity card for Tibetans. Another card may be an extra thing,” he said.

He said new arrival Tibetan refugees since February 2003 have not been issued RC, except for those attending schools and monasteries. “Their cases are pending with the government of India,” Phuntsok said.

“These cases should to be handled first.”

Every year 2500 to 3000 Tibetan refugees flee Tibet and come to India. In most cases, the new arrivals remain in India.

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