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Tibetan community divided over citizenship rights

January 19, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:32 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The Election Commission’s recent directive allowing Tibetan refugees to register for voter identity card for Delhi Assembly elections, which will help them acquire Indian citizenship, has not been welcomed by all and created a deep chasm within the exiled community.

Those against acquiring citizenship rights argue that the Tibetans living in India must remain refugees as becoming an Indian citizen would “dilute the struggle” for a free Tibet.

N. K. Trikha, national convenor of Core Group for Tibetan Cause, a pan-India group which advocates Tibet’s independence from Chinese rule, said, “Acquiring Indian citizenship will knock the bottom out of their reason for living in exile with a determination to return to their motherland or see her become free at some point in time.” He said that by taking any other country’s citizenship in search of greener pastures, the exiled community would lose its sovereign identity as Tibetans for a few “mundane” advantages.

“The cost will be too heavy for the overall Tibetan cause,” he warned.

Tenzin Tsundue, a well-known Tibetan activist and writer, thanked the Indian Government for granting voting rights to his compatriots living in India but said, “it dilutes the struggle for a free Tibet because it naturally sets in complacency in the life of people and the urgency is lost in the process.”

He said the moment Tibetans give up their nationality and swear loyalty to another country, they lose their authority to speak as a Tibetan.

Tenzin Lekshay, a media coordinator in the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said that according to the ‘Demographic Survey of Tibetans in Exile’ by planning commission of Central Tibetan Administration, a total number of 94,203 Tibetans reside in India. When asked how many of them have been accorded citizenship by the Indian government, he said that he did not have an exact number in this regard. PTI

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