Kashag not against Tibetans taking Indian citizenship: CTA President

President of Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay speaks in the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, in Dharamshala, India, on 23 September 2017.

President of Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay speaks in the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, in Dharamshala, India, on 23 September 2017.
Tibet Sun/Contributor

By Lobsang Wangyal

McLEOD GANJ, India, 23 September 2017

Clarifying the issue of Tibetans in India taking Indian citizenship, President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay said that the Kashag (Cabinet) has no objections.

“The Constitution of India already says that those who were born in India between 1950 and 1987 are citizens of India. How could Kashag deny that?”

He explained that a Tibetan taking Indian citizenship will not affect his or her status as a Tibetan national, as the exile Tibetan Charter has clearly said that any Tibetan in exile could take citizenship of another country.

“Any Tibetan, as long as they are holding the Green Book [tax payment to CTA], could take part in the Tibetan elections and could even become the Sikyong, President of the CTA,” Sangay said.

He was responding to questions asked by a few members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in its current fourth session.

Problems and confusion

MP Dolma Tsering said that there are Tibetans who were facing problems in processing their Indian citizenship due to new rules enacted by the Government of India.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of the Government of India, following a Delhi High Court order, issued a memorandum on 17 March asking all the passport-issuing authorities (Regional Passport Offices, RPO) to issue passport to Tibetans who were born between the stipulated 1950 to 1987 (and their children).

However, many Tibetans still face difficulties in processing their passport due to lack of any clear rules about surrendering their Registration Certificate (RC) and the Identity Certificate (the Yellow Book issued in place of a passport).

The “No Objection Certificate”

Some Tibetans complain of facing problems while surrendering their RC, as the police office where they go to surrender the document ask for a “No Objection Certificate” (NOC) from their Tibetan settlement. This is being asked at the discretion of the local police station — there is no Indian law that requires this.

However, the settlement officers are refusing to issue this NOC. Despite Kashag’s stated position of having no objection to Tibetans taking Indian citizenship, on 5 July it ordered all the Tibetan settlement officers not to issue any supporting document or NOC for processing of passports.

Because of the restrictions, those Tibetans who would like to obtain passport are facing difficulties, leading them to file cases against various RPOs in Delhi High Court. More cases are likely to be filed until these issues are rectified.

The MEA rule to leave settlement

The MEA has issued new rules asking Tibetans to leave their settlement if they apply for a passport, and also not to take any benefits from the CTA.

Some lawyers feel that these rules are infringing the Constituion of India, in particular Article 21: Protection of Life and Personal Liberty, and Article 19(c): To form associations or unions.

Sangay said that the settlements were allotted to “Tibetan refugees” by the Government of India, and that once they become Indian citizens, they will have to leave as per the Government of India’s order.

He added that Article 6 of the exile Tibetan Charter says that the CTA must ensure that they follow the rule of the land. “When the Government of India has issued new rules, we have to follow that.”

Quoting questions by Indian supporters, Sangay said, “Why have you come to India? Did you come to take Indian citizenship?”

Regarding this issue of Tibetans being asked to leave the settlements if they apply for a passport, he said, “It is a personal matter, and a person has to decide whether they want to leave the settlement or not.”

Concern over publicity, not Tibetans’ difficulties

Sangay expressed disappointment over the amount of publicity made by some who got the passport. “The concerned officials expressed sadness over so much publicity, which was painting the Government of India in a bad light.”

“The Government of India has always looked after the welfare of Tibetans well. Such publicity was unwarranted. If there were small problems, those could have resolved without using so much publicity.”

Sangay also charged that the huge publicity has affected the Tibetans seeking asylum in Canada and Switzerland.

“The judges in those countries have argued that the Government of India is granting citizenship to Tibetans,” and therefore they do not need asylum.

He didn’t clarify the issue of whether those Tibetans who don’t have RC any more could get employment, scholarships, or health benefits from the CTA, since to seek such benefits, the CTA ask for RC.

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