NEW YORK CITY, US, 7 August 2017
Tibetans have been living in India as what they call themselves “refugees” since 1959, after the original Middle-Way Approach that began in 1951 and which was subsequently rejected by China with a barrage of guns, artillery, and bombs.
Does India regard Tibetans in India as refugees? No. Are the Tibetans considered Indians? No. Then what are they to the Indian government? Stateless foreigners. If that is the case, then on what grounds are Tibetans given separate settlements on lease in many parts of India? On stateless foreigners ground? No. Then on what? On humanitarian ground. Well, that is the definition of the Tibetan situation in India.
Tibetans in India have no rights whatsoever, including no land or property ownership, no administrative or political positions, no jobs in the civil sector or corporation business, no election. Although things have started to change recently with initiative from the Indian government as far as the policy of rights for the Tibetans in India are concerned, on the ground not much has changed. Most state offices are not even aware of this change, and that drags the process hard and long, often ending in denial.
The majority of the Tibetans in India are surviving on a small piece of land with a few huts on it, and doing mainly footpath business selling Ludhiana sweaters in Indian cities. Obviously, Tibetans are dying to get out of this sorry state by moving to the West, particularly to the US, and also by applying for Indian citizenship for growth, security, and equality. India has started issuing Indian citizenship to those Tibetans born in India from 1959 to 1987 and their children if they choose to apply.
But there is an obstacle on the path. It is the Central Tibetan Administration!
On the surface, CTA has said time and again that it would help by giving supporting documents to those Tibetans who want to apply for Indian citizenship, and that at the same time it would not compel Tibetans to take to Indian citizenship. Fair enough.
But the fact is, CTA is dead set against Tibetans becoming Tibetan-Indians. Why?
One major argument put forward is that once Tibetans in India become Tibetan-Indians, we will lose the legitimacy of fighting for Tibetan freedom. At face value, this seems like a good reason, but underneath the surface it is a pure lie, and double standard too. For example, Tibetan-Americans, Tibetan-Canadians, or Tibetan-English face no such problems. They are actually at the forefront of peaceful street protests. Jews around the world fought for freedom with foreign passports in hands, and today they have an independent state of Israel.
Two, Tibetan-Indians will lose access to all the CTA benefits, including the right to live in Tibetan settlements and political positions. Again, this does not apply to Tibetans with foreign citizenship other than Indian citizenship. Those Tibetans who are Americans, Canadians, or even Nepalese, have the right and access to all the benefits mentioned above, but once you become Indians, it’s another story. Do you see the double standard here?
For instance, Lobsang Sangay, the president of the CTA, is a US citizen. Gyari Dolma, who enjoyed CTA positions such as that of Home Ministry, is an Indian citizen. She did not go through the citizenship process like the Tibetan journalist Lobsang Wangyal did. She bought it for Rs 50,000 twenty years ago, which is illegal. There are many such examples.
Three, the Indian government does not accept dual citizenship. That may be the case, but there is a way already in place such as Non-Resident Indian (NRI) status. And Tibetans with Indian citizenship living in the west, for example, can get Overseas Indian Citizenship (OCI) status. Some Tibetans have already got it. With this status, you have every right that an Indian citizen has except voting. And it does not stipulate that you cannot fight for the Tibetan cause, however vague that might be. There is no international law set in stone that with foreign passports, you cannot fight for the freedom of your home country. As long as you don’t collude with the enemy of your adopted country, it’s all well.
Now what is CTA’s strategy to prevent us everyday Tibetans from becoming Tibetan-Indians?
- It has recently ordered all the offices under its wings not to issue any Indian citizenship supporting documents to those Tibetans who reside in India. This is simply unbelievable.
- It has also manipulated the Indian authorities to kick all Tibetan-Indians out of their Tibetan settlements on the pretext that they are no longer refugees. Are Tibetans then given settlements because they are refugees? Hell no. But on humanitarian grounds.
This pre-emptive strike from CTA is what Tibetans aspiring to be Indians fear most. You lose:
- Rent-free eight acres of land in the Tibetan settlements for a family of 10.
- And a rent-free four-bedroom hut on an 18,000-square-foot plot with backyard and front yard.
- And also, all the new brick modern two-story homes, gardens, garages, and swimming pools they built with money from their relatives in the west.
- Cheap electricity and water bills.
- And tons of fresh air in the rural areas.
- Also, Tibetan-Indians will lose the right to enjoy any benefit from CTA, be it political or administrative positions, jobs, aid, scholarship, election, etc., simply because they are Tibetan-Indians.
However, CTA or Indian authorities should not remove Tibetan-Indians from the settlements because
- They are still humans.
- And they are still very poor. As much as we hate to admit it, this is a fact. This is not about driving a Mercedes around and collecting welfare cheques. If you go to any Tibetan settlement and ask a Tibetan to produce Rs10,000 ($150) you will only find him scratching his head looking up toward the heavens for help.
- Besides, Tibetans have worked the land, have a social history and connection to the land they have lived on for nearly six decades.
- The Tibetan population who are eligible for Indian citizenship is less than 50,000 which is a drop in the ocean of Indian population.
- Not heeding this demand will result in thousands of Tibetan-Indians going homeless. Obviously, such a state of affairs will not contribute anything to the Tibetan cause.
In defence, CTA parrots several major excuses for its discriminatory policy that:
- Tibetans in India enjoy all the rights that an Indian citizen enjoys except that Tibetans cannot participate in elections.
This is absolutely not true. If this is true, why would Tibetans in Dharamshala buy land through benami deal which is a shaky deal? But desperation makes humans capable of doing anything because there is nothing to lose at rock bottom.
- Tibetans in countries other than India have no choice but become citizens.
This is not true either. If Tibetans choose, they can hold on to their asylum status or to green card for life. Just don’t take the citizenship test, and you remain as you are.
- That it is Indian government’s policy and that CTA can do nothing but respect it.
This is how CTA washes its hands off the Indian immigration policy, which was manipulated by CTA in the first place.
This is not only discrimination to Tibetan-Indians, but racism towards Indians — our host.
A case in point, Tibetans who marry Indians or have an affair with Indians are looked down upon, sometimes paraded naked in public like the case in Majnu ka Tilla, Old Delhi, some years ago, and beaten up and socially ostracized. Tibetans hate dark skin. And once the makeup gets washed off by rain, Indians generally are dark. But when Tibetans marry white Americans or English or Canadians of European stock, Tibetan authorities have no problem. If this is not racism, then what is?
Denying Tibetan-Indians any CTA benefits, while letting Tibetan-Americans and Tibetan-Canadians gorge on CTA benefits, is a classic case of top-down discrimination based on citizenship. It is unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
What to do?
What the Tibetan-Indians can do now:
- Form an organization called Tibetan Indian organization (TIO) and do the following, soon.
- Create a community of strong bonding through mutual help and understanding.
- Petition CTA for a change in the policy.
- Contact media and organize street protests.
- Organize unto-death hunger strikes to draw the attention and support of the Indian public.
- Let the international community and world leaders know what the CTA is doing to them, through all means available, including constant use of social media.
- As the organization grows bigger and bigger over the coming years, and if by then CTA refuses to budge, issue an ultimatum: Be fair and fulfill the demands or two things can happen. One, that CTA will be seen as an agent of China and therefore fit to be booted out by any and all means. Two, sever ties to anything CTA completely. This may seem like the old woman mad for nine years at the pre-1959 Tibetan lama government and when she died, the then Tibetan government didn’t even know it! But when you do it in large numbers, CTA will be left with no choice but to fulfil your demands. CPC or CTA, an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. Zero tolerance!
Following are the reasons why Tibetans in India want Indian citizenship:
- CTA shipped 1,000 Tibetans to the US in the early 1990s.
- CTA shipped 2,000 Tibetans to Switzerland in the 1970s.
- Over 40,000 Tibetans are now living in the West.
- Tired of surviving on a tiny farm that witnesses loss every other year.
- Tired of rearing cattle because milk is cheaper than bottled water and therefore no profit.
- Tired of selling sweaters in the dusty dirty streets of scorching Indian cities.
- Tired of being treated as second-class citizens because you have no citizenship from any country.
- Hard to travel on IC (Identity Certificate) when it could be changed to TD (Travel Document).
- Many in the exile Cabinet and the Parliament have foreign passports.
- CTA abandoned the independence struggle since 1974, and officially in 1988.
- No so-called “Genuine Autonomy” is in sight.
- No secular multi-party system is implemented, and therefore there is no proper representation for the public. It is still a government of, for, and by the monks.
- The status of the Tibetan Government in Exile is reduced to Central Tibetan Administration.
- The status of Sikyong or Prime Minister is reduced to the President of a Taxi Union and thereby undermining the political status of our movement.
- Remaining stuck in grinding poverty in India is not helping the cause nor our families.
- Last but not least, it is CTA’s policy to keep us poor and dependent on the CTA so it can control us and use us — for their world view at best, and for their ulterior motives at worst.
About the author
Mila Rangzen is a US armed forces veteran serving the New York Community as an immigration translator. He can be reached at [email protected]
More articles by Mila Rangzen on Tibet Sun.
Thanks Mila Rangzen for giving a very clear picture of the passport issue, and clearly explaining why Tibetans taking Indian passport is not a threat to the Tibetan struggle. How could it be anyway? The top Tibetan leader Lobsang Sangay himself holds American passport or a permit, but not RC. Like him there are thousands of Tibetans holding American, European or passports of other countries. Saying that holding Indian passport is a threat to Tibetans struggle, then Tibetans holding passport of other countries doesn’t cause threat? What would be the logic?
Life in India is not easy. There are more problems and hassles in India than in America or Europe. Tibetans in India should definitely have Indian citizenship. Without that they have been denied many rights even though they live in a free country.
Some have so shallow understanding about the whole issue. Could India really close schools attended by Tibetans if Tibetans become Indian citizens? In fact, then Tibetans will get more rights as being minorities. And why would Indian citizens will make Tibetans “really Indian”? Indians in America are still Indians. Indians in England are still Indians. Tibetans in America and still Tibetans. India may expect Tibetans to take part in Indian politics, but there’s nothing wrong in that. Tibetans take part in American politics, is there any problem doing that? But they take more active part in Tibetan politics. So Tibetans in India may take part in Indian politics but they will do the usual things with regard to the Tibetan affairs. Those who take Indian citizens are not saying they are surrendering their green book [the tax to CTA], and avoiding participating in 10 March protest, and similar activities.
In anyway, Charter of the Tibetan people allows Tibetans to be citizen of another country. If this is not practiced, why have such things and a Charter at the first place. Lobsang Sangay has American document, Sherig Kalon [Minister of Education] has American citizen. Sikyong’s friend Kaydor is American citizen. And the list goes on. Please be more aware and try to make sense before posting views that doesn’t make sense.
If ever there is CTA’s hand in disallowing the Indian Tibetans to live with their RC holder family members in the community set ups, it will ultimately cause disunity in the Tibetan community without achieving what they perhaps intended to achieve.
We Indians celebrating 71st Independence Day and I convey my best greetings to fellow Tibetans in their freedom struggle. All the very best.
If Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and everyone else from Dharamsala are so grateful to India for everything that has been provided to us for 60 years, they would issue a statement in this regard. Instead they block ordinary Tibetans from gaining Indian citizenship. Are they saying it is bad to be Indian? Why is it okay to get American or Swiss passport, but not okay to get an Indian passport?
How come Sikyong and Dolma Gyari and Dhardon Sharling can have two passports but when a private citizen wants to get Indian citizenship, the leadership refuses to issue a No Objection Certificate? Sikyong and Dolma Gyari also stayed silent when a private citizen like Lobsang Wangyal lak had to use his own funds to get a citizenship and the related benefits.
Too many double standards, when did our leadership start serving themselves and stop serving the public? When did India become a second class choice? Our leadership have gotten fat off the generosity of India and need to be reminded how to be grateful.
Let’s say all 90,000 Tibetans take Indian citizenship. Then there is no need for TCV schools, CST schools, Central Tibetan Administration. Dalai Lama secured those special arrangement to preserve Tibetan identity and culture. Indian government will no longer subsidize for CST schools. All those facilities will stop because there’s no reason to continue to give fund for Tibetan refugees when all those refugees have turned into Indians.
once you are an Indian, you are really Indian. you are expected to take part in Indian politics instead of refugee politics. You can be a Tibet supporter or sympathizers like normal Indians, but you can’t be a Tibetan freedom fighter.
Yes no one will give funds but then again, isn’t 60 years enough for our leadership to establish businesses to fund our government, instead of relying on Western handouts?
According to your logic, Tibetans who hold American and Swiss passports are not Tibetan freedom fighters. Yet they are the ones who organise protests every year. What say you?
It’s so strange and sometimes I wonder why he used so aggressive words towards CTA instead of proper discussion with them. It could resolve this matter in a proper dialogue. Since you had been holding refugee status once upon a time, so be good.
Agree that this writer is more aggressive but that does not mean we should stop exposing misdeeds and double standards even when it involves CTA and its leaders. Sikyong Lobsang Sangay is a jadugaar [magician] who has put Tibetan public in spell with his lofty promises and empty words. His biggest mistake in his political career is his association with Dardon Sharling who has turned out to be a bat with no integrity. She switched sides and contradicted herself shamelessly and publicly many times that many of her own supporters and loyal friends have been left shocked and betrayed. She will one day flip on Sikyong when he least expects it. But Sikyong unfortunately is currently under her spell and has no time and concern for problems relating to Tibetans with Indian citizenship.
The writer wants to know how wholesale indianization of Tibetans weaken the Tibetan cause. Here it is the answer. A grant of citizenship requires absolute loyal to the state. When India doesn’t accept dual nationality (unlike most Western countries like USA ), the govt will crack down the pro Tibet political activities due to inevitable conflict of interest.
Also citizenship matter relates directly to Dalai Lamas’ prestige in India. If Tibetans lose dependency on CTA and Dalai Lama, then there’s nothing to stop the dirty lama politics to enter the fray. Lamas of all four sects will compete to amass their own followers via financial incentive and build mini-kingdoms. While it seems Dalai Lama enjoys all round loyalty, the truth is bit more complicated. For example, you will find in Bir signicant sections of Khampa who will put Ugyen Topgyal rinpoche above Dalai Lama. The throne of top Lama will attract a blood-splitting rivalty and instability along the sectarian lines.
Even graver threat which Samdhong Rinpoche implies often is the scenario where such Lama-led groups will attempt negotiation with Beijing bypassing legitimacy-starved CTA. CTA will lose it’s prestige just like that. And no big shot will wanna visit gangkyi. Then CTA will be dead.
Frankly, there are many Tibetans who managed to get passport using their “creativity” without big hassle like lobsang wangyal and that songtsen gompo girl. In 5 years time, if our delicate exile community implodea and crashes with Exodus of Chinese spies with Indian passport (and even standing in Himachal state politics), those delusional, pseudo-hero pioneers will have to live with unredeemable regret. Indian govt is freaking scared of this spy thriller scenario. There’s deeper, much much deeper politics that Mila Rangzen has no clue whatsoever about.
In short, Indian citizenship movement has real and solid detrimental effect on Dalai Lamas power and ablity to influence. Does Mila seriously think Dalai Lamas influence inside Tibet will grow if more and more Tibetans switch legal loyalty to India citing minor difficulties?
One may not agree with the CTA’s decision to not issue No Objection letter. Many also consider Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and Dhardon Sharling as the Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway of the CTA. Yet, the suggestions put forward in the article for future course of actions in dealing with the current problem is little too much.
The writer is doing a great job in awakening his people. We need more Tibetans like him who can articulate his concerns in writing.
Free tingmo eater, born and brought up in free school and on free land given by Indian government due to Dalai Lama and CTA’s hard work. Now when they reach America they act as if they did it all themselves. One day karma will burn you down for your ungrateful actions, and for trying to create fake accusations against the very government that raised you, fed you and educated you. You guys are worst than Chinese.
The writer is making Tibetans like you aware of the policy changes CTA is making. Everyone has a right to criticize their leaders. I agree that the writer has more aggressive stance towards the CTA, but commenting with the same backlash doesn’t prove that you’re any better.
Tenzin, it is duty of leaders to take care of their people and it is the duty of people not become slaves to their leaders. Or else Hitler will be born. Jamyang Norbu is in retreat for about 4 months now. So let this writer fill the void. I agree with all the points because he is truthful. But unfortunately truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth.
Your comment is disgusting! Burn you down? Are you serious? Shame on you. Take a very long hard look at YOUR own karma before you post such vile vomit! Worse than the Chinese? You need psychiatric help!
I agree with most of the point but we don’t have to show Tamasha to get the citizen of India. Those who need it they will do everything to get the citizen. But I totally agree that CTA is doing wrong and they should resolve the problem asap. Instead they should serve the people of Tibetan whether citizen of Bangladesh Yeah India.
Be careful with your words and comments. You may be harming the cause of Tibet or doing disservice to poor struggling Tibetan families with your venomous comments. Please don’t lose your goodness, and make others suffer due to political conflicts at the higher level.
Let’s live a simple life and be happy. Every issue is too much politicize to settle their personal scores. An ordinary Tibetans are not into this game. Sorry.
CTA now has an ear full; a well thought out and elaborately executed article to articulate the grievances of those disadvantaged Tibetans in India.
Why Tibetans in India want Indian citizenship:
No. 6. Tired of selling sweaters in the dusty dirty streets of Indian scorching cities. Well, I thought our folks sold sweaters in winter months when the weather is generally cooler and more conducive to the sweater business.
No. 12. It says still a government of, for, and by the monks. Yes, I opt for a government by monks or wonks as opposed to by PUNKS. When the latter holds the reins of government we then succumb to the whims of kakistocracy.
Interesting article, but biased on one instance.
A well-known U-tsang regionalist supporter of Dhadon Sharling that you have been, you carefully picked Gyari Dolma and Sikyong Sangay here.
Sikyong holds a US passport. Gyari, people say, holds an Indian passport. Nobody knows if they have an RC (‘Foreigner’ Registration Certificate)
But, your idol Dhadon Sharling holds an Indian passport and also an RC. She was once bailed out from a sticky situation because of this, and all top guy here in Dharamsala know the inside story.
So pretend not to not know this.
Hello everyone, specially to our CTA Taxi union president Lobsang Sangay and his beneficiary Kashag members and followers,
I am Chokyi I worked in Exile government 15 years. When Lobsang Sangay came to Dharamsala leadership I researched 2 years through what I have seen and what I listened from him personally. Lobsang have no personal skill and capability to solve the issues of Tibetans in India. He have only a paper degree from Harvard that’s called R….R….R, which means big talk in Tibetan. I feel so much pity on those uneducated Tibetans who set themselves on fire and burned their bodies. Each self-immolation brought a huge benefit to CTA financially. After every self-immolation Lobsang Sangay and his Kashag members have tour programs under the name of Tibetan political issues to introduce to western countries. Mostly, they travel first/business class. But, once they reached destination Lobsang Sangay asked donations to CTA. This is Sangay’s no 1 capability to ask donors in the name of self- immolation. So, I have known much better what Sangay real doing. That’s why I resigned from my post and living independently in US now. Here I humble request to all ordinary Tibetan people in exile. Plz go to apply for western or Indian citizenship as soon as possible. This is only way how you and your children survive a better life. Don’t listen CTA leaders big talks. Becoz, when you don’t have money to pay your children’s school fees. CTA can’t help you. When your father got serious sickness CTA can’t help you. When your mother died CTA can’t help you. But, CTA will use you for donations in name of seeking help for Tibetans. That donations they will corrupt at the end. Therefore, do something for yourself. Don’t let others use you. This is real experience that I got from CTA in 15 years working from down to earth. Don’t waste your life in CTA’s misuses.
Wow. May be you have a personal issue with President Dr. Lobsang Sangay. But CTA had been feeding you for 15 years and now you are piling [dirt] on the same plate that have been feeding you. If CTA is corrupted, then you are corrupted too because your salary and benefits [came] from CTA. If you resigned from CTA because of Dr. Lobsang Sangay, then you are stupid. If not then don’t blame your greedy of coming to USA on CTA. What a WASTE of 15 years CTA salary.
His Holiness chose not to settle else where but India. CTA is in India. Chinese govt is not bothered about Tibetans being abroad but His Holiness being in India and CTA based in India, Chinese govt don’t give a damn about Tibetans living abroad. There main concern is more about His Holiness, Buddhism and CTA. Now when you are saying Indian citizenship, do your research well. Tibetans in India are doing well because of His Holiness and CTA. We are still here in India by numbers and it serves some purpose. We have all the rights in India. You have forgotten about our struggle. And you are showing your personal grudge.
Imagine all CTA workers and public holding Indian passport!!! This will be ridiculous. Can CTA still pretend to represent 7 million Tibetans ? The name CTA itself will be nonsense. Let’s call it Central Indian administration.
Also passport applicant should vacate their settlement home as per Indian Home Ministry’s instruction. Many new arrivals especially in 1990s have no shichak [settlement] home. Those vacant homes should to go them. This will be fair.
Mila, be grateful to India. Express gratitude instead of demanding all the time.
I don’t think it’s threat but we will lose all the facilities granted for Tibetan refugees.