By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 9 November 2018
India has not yet issued a visa to the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to attend a Tibetan religious leaders’ conference at the end of this month in McLeod Ganj, India.
The Karmapa in March acquired citizenship of the Commonwealth of Dominica and received a passport of that country. Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic) is an island country in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea.
After acquiring the passport, the Karmapa tried to surrender his previous travel document at the Indian Consulate in New York City. The Government of India issues a travel document called an Identity Certificate (IC, popularly known as “Yellow Book”) in place of a passport for Tibetans in India.
However he was told that since the Consulate didn’t have instructions from Delhi, they couldn’t accept the surrender of his IC.
Rules pertaining to the Identity Certificate require that a person holding the document surrender it to the nearest passport-issuing authority of India after acquiring citizenship of another country. The IC ceases to be valid after citizenship of another country is acquired.
After several attempts to surrender the IC had been refused by the Indian Consulate in NYC, the Karmapa wrote a letter in mid-October to the Consulate requesting that they accept the surrender of the IC, and grant a visa to visit India on his new passport so that he could attend the conference.
The consulate has not yet responded to his letter, Tibet Sun has learned.
The three-day Tibetan Buddhist leaders’ conference from 29 November, convened by the Dalai Lama, will be held at the T-Building (a new administrative building, nicknamed “5-50 Building”) within the premises of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala.
The Karmapa fled to India from Chinese control in 2000 when he was 14 years of age. Soon after, the Government of India held him to be a Chinese spy, and restricted his movements. Despite multiple requests, India has refused to issue him the certificate required to accept funds from foreign countries, called the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
A police raid of his office in 2011 found cash in currencies of 25 countries amounting to 6.5 crore (65,000,000) Indian rupees (approx 915,000 US dollars). That total included Chinese Yuan equalling 11 lakh (1,100,000) Indian rupees. The money was confiscated by the police and has never been returned.
The Karmapa’s office announced that all the money was given as offerings by his devotees, and that due to lack of a certificate to accept foreign contributions, it remained within the office.
Speaking about his current situation, the Karmapa said in a video message that it has been 18 years since he had arrived in India, but since more than a year he has been living abroad, mainly in the US.
The Karmapa said that it has been a very difficult time, partly because of his health issues, but also because of the problems that arose and the consequent stress he was under. “I think that this time I spent in America was the hardest period of my life,” he stated.
Explaining his reasons for taking the Dominica citizenship, the Karmapa said that although the Government of India issues the Identity Certificate to Tibetans, it does not have the status of a passport. The use of this document to travel abroad has become increasingly problematic, especially since some countries refuse to recognise its validity at all.
As recommended by his advisors, the Karmapa acquired citizenship of the Commonwealth of Dominica and received a passport of this country. Many other high lamas of various Tibetan traditions have acquired foreign citizenship in order to be able to travel freely and to accomplish their Dharma activities.
Since acquiring his new passport in March 2018, the Karmapa had informed the Government of India, the Dalai Lama, and the Central Tibetan Administration of his change in status.
There are 20 days left until the start of the conference. The Karmapa has said that he is eager to join it, and is expected to attend, since he is the head of the Karma Kagyu branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
He said last week that he wanted to return to India, and had initially hoped to do so in June this year. However, due to the change in his status, he now needs a visa and has been waiting for the Government of India to grant him one.