Karmapa acquires Dominica passport

He has been living in the U.S. for the past more than a year

October 03, 2018 09:41 pm | Updated 09:41 pm IST - New Delhi

Buddhist leader The Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje poses for a portrait in London, Britain May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Buddhist leader The Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje poses for a portrait in London, Britain May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

Urgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, has acquired the citizenship of Dominica, a Caribbean country, to travel around the world, a senior government official said on Wednesday. He is the second most important Tibetan monk after the Dalai Lama.

There were reports that the Karmapa has refused to return to India from the U.S. where he has been living for more than a year amid travel restrictions imposed on him by Indian authorities. Some officials in the intelligence agencies are wary of the Chinese influence on him.

The Karmapa acquired the Dominica passport for “ease of travel.” His continued stay there has worried the agencies.

The Central Tibetan Administration issues Identity Certificates (IC), which enables Tibetans to travel abroad as they don’t have passports.

Amitabh Mathur, former advisor to the Centre on Tibetan Affairs told The Hindu that “obtaining a foreign travel document was an irrelevant issue.”

“Acquiring foreign citizenship is an old issue, it does not make the Karmapa less of a Tibetan. It is only for ease of travel and doesn’t diminish his stature,” Mr. Mathur said.

The Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is based at Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. He escaped from Tibet in 2000.

The intelligence agencies have opposed the government’s earlier proposal to let him visit any part of the country without prior permission.

He is currently in the U.S., living in a guest house provided by the Tibetan Board.

The Buddhist community in India has been advocating for Karmapa’s return.

Soon after the NDA government came to power, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi eased travel restrictions on Karmapa to travel to foreign countries and also allowed him to visit Arunachal Pradesh in 2016.

A senior home ministry official said they had written to the Lt. Governor of Delhi to identify a land for a new monastery for the Karmapa.

“The Karmapa’s legitimacy apart from the process of his identification comes from the Dalai Lama’s blessings. The Karmapa has great reverence for Dalai Lama and the two are very close, so the question of any attempt to sideline him doesn’t arise. He is keen to come back as soon as possible,” Mr. Mathur said.

In 2011, police had recovered ₹1.2 crore of unaccounted foreign currency from Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery in Dharamsala. The police had registered a case against the Karmapa and the recovery also included Chinese currency, after which the then government put more restrictions on his travel.

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