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26 Jun 2017

Tibetans unhappy over conditions for passports set by government

Tibetans in India denied citizenship rights

The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and since then, about 1.5-2 lakh Tibetans have followed his footsteps.

While the Indian Government does provide them with many facilities, they don't have citizenship rights.

However, the Centre recently announced they would soon get Indian passports.

But now, it has set certain conditions for the passports, which didn't go down well with Tibetans.

In context

Tibetans in India denied citizenship rights
About Tibetan refugees in India


About Tibetan refugees in India

Tibetans have been seeking asylum in India since 1959; they usually undertake a perilous journey across the Himalayas and arrive via Nepal.

They currently live in 39 formal and dozens of informal settlements across India.

Supporters of the Dalai Lama, who mostly lived in Himachal Pradesh's Dharamshala since fleeing, reportedly run a government, which also peacefully advocates autonomy for Tibet.


Denied Indian citizenship rights

The government provides free education, healthcare services, scholarships, reserved seats, and even voter IDs to eligible Tibetan refugees.

However, they cannot apply for government jobs, their movement within/outside India is limited, and they can't own land/property.

They are permitted to live in India only if they renew their 'Registration Certificate' (RC) every year; to travel abroad they must obtain 'Yellow Books', an identification certificate.

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Delhi HC directs government to issue passports

In Sep'16, responding to refugee Lobsang Wangyal's petition, the Delhi HC ruled Tibetans born between 26 January 1950-1 July 1987 in India are citizens by birth.

It said they should be granted passports as per the Citizenship Act; the policy came into effect in Mar'17.

In Apr'17, abiding by the verdict, External Affairs Ministry said eligible refugees will be issued passports.


Applicants must give up privileges, benefits, subsidies

Seeking an Indian passport, a monk recently approached Bengaluru's regional passport office.

The office enlisted four conditions to be fulfilled under MEA's "new rules", which are as follows:

The applicants' RCs should be canceled; they cannot live in designated refugee settlements.

Applicants must declare they are no longer enjoying Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) benefits and forfeit privileges/subsidies of being RC holders.

CTA chooses not to comment on new rules

A CTA official stated: "The CTA has clarified that to apply for an Indian passport is a personal choice of any Tibetan. So we can't say anything about the new rules." The CTA, the Tibetan government-in-exile, is based in McLeod Ganj, near Dharamshala.


Eligible for passports, but at what cost

Lobsang Wangyal said passports will make Tibetans homeless for the second time.

Citing the example of two women who were asked to provide addresses other than their settlements for passports, he said the "rules are ambiguous".

He added the rules can be challenged in court as they violate the Indian Constitution's Article-14 (Equality before Law) and Article-21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty).

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