CHENNAI, India, 25 September 2016
It is now several decades since China invaded and occupied Tibet and gained complete military control over the land. While many Tibetans entered India as refugees after the Chinese occupation, large section of Tibetan population had no alternative other than remaining in the country and submitting themselves to the military dictatorship of China and consequent hardships, agony, misery and loss of freedom.
Design of China will not succeed
Now, with more than sixty years gone after the Chinese occupied Tibet, Tibetans living in Tibet under Chinese occupation and those Tibetans born after Chinese occupation must have been brainwashed by the Chinese government to a considerable extent, to make them think that Tibet is part of China and make them reconcile themselves to Tibet not being an independent country.
China has been trying to rewrite the history of Tibet that would effectively destroy the image of Tibet as an independent country. Of course, while it may look as if the Chinese have succeeded in such evil design to some extent at present, the basic craving for freedom and pride in the glory of Tibet cannot be wiped out in the mind of the Tibetans, and such feelings would remain in the bottom of the hearts of Tibetans for all time to come. At the earliest opportunity, such love for the country would spring back and brighten the prospects for independent Tibet. Such a time will come.
Citizenship for Tibetans in other countries
Today, some Tibetans in exile have sought citizenship in other countries and have succeeded in getting the same. Such Tibetans do not know any “home” other than the country in which they live. In several countries such as USA, UK, Canada, citizenship is granted for Tibetans after a certain period of living in the country, generally 5 to 10 years.
There are reported to be around one hundred thousand Tibetans living in India, in fourteen to fifteen settlements across the country such as Ladakh, Dharamshala, and other places. There has been some ambiguity with regard to the granting of Indian citizenship to Tibetans, as the Government of India has been stating that it would consider citizenship for Tibetans residing in India on a case-by-case basis. However, the Delhi High court has now settled the matter by ruling that the nationality of Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 and after cannot be questioned under the Indian Citizenship Act. In other words, it means that Tibetans have to be given Indian citizenship if they opt for it.
Tibetans should maintain their identity
The question is whether Tibetans living in exile in India or any other country should seek citizenship of such countries or stay as Tibetans (as refugees), so that the identity of the Tibetans would be retained.
In such a situation, Tibetans in exile have a great responsibility to ensure that the identity of Tibetans would be maintained, and that the thought and hope that Tibet would once again emerge as an independent country sooner or later would be cherished.
Obviously, Tibetans in exile seeking citizenship of any other country would dilute the Tibetan cause to gain independence from the Chinese occupation and ensure that Tibet would re-emerge as a sovereign country.
Of course the Chinese government would be pleased if the Tibetans in exile would become citizens of some other country, so that it would meet the Chinese objective of ensuring gradual loss of identity of Tibetans and gradual decline in the claim of Tibetans in exile about restoring the sovereignty of Tibet.
Tibetans in exile have a hard choice to make. The younger generation of Tibetans who have not seen Tibet but only have heard about its glory and who want to prosper may have the temptation to obtain citizenship in some other country. But, this will not help the cause of Tibet.
About the author
NS Venkataraman is a chemical engineer as well as a social activist in Chennai, India. He is the founder trustee of Nandini Voice For The Deprived, a Chennai-based not-for-profit organisation serving the cause of the deprived and down-trodden and working for probity in public life.
More articles by NS Venkataraman on Tibet Sun.