STORY: The Election Commission’s order to confer voting rights to Tibetans- in- exile in India ahead of general elections sparked mixed reactions in the Tibetan diaspora.
While a few rejoiced over the landmark decision, others felt that the decision might bring a blow to the Tibetan liberation struggle and also to the refugees’ rights they are entitled to.
Former Tibetan Prime Minister- in- exile, Samdhong Rinpoche ,said on Monday(March24) that the decision has left many skeptical about the consequences it might have on the liberation movement and the Tibetan citizenship that they would have to surrender in order to vote.
“Involved in the struggle as Tibetan citizens, when we become citizens of some other country then we can only become a Tibetan supporters and join Tibetan support groups not as Tibetans would be able to do. As I mentioned before, if giving voting rights is meant for the Indian citizen then we shall have to give up the Tibetan citizenship because India does not have the provisions for holding dual citizenship,”said he.
Though many are excited about casting their vote for the first time as an Indian citizen, a Tibetan Indian voter, Lobsang Wangyal felt that voting rights might curb their refugee rights.
“There are a few Tibetans that I have been discussing with, they are like reluctant to register as an Indian voter thinking that it may have some other implications on their daily lives such as the refugee benefits they may have been getting from other agencies, and some people they also feel what will happen to the Tibetan movement,” said he.
The election commission decided last month that Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 would be entitled to cast their votes as an Indian citizen.
However, District Election Officer of Kangra district in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh, C Palrasu, said that the provincial election commission of Himachal Pradesh which homes the Tibetan community in exile has kicked off the inquiry into the authenticity of their birth dates, subsequent to which they would be registered as Indian voters.
Violence has flared in Tibet since 1950, when Beijing claims it “peacefully liberated” the region. Many Tibetans say Chinese rule has eroded their culture and religion. They are agitating for the Dalai Lama’s return from exile in India, and genuine autonomy for their homeland.
The Chinese government, however, denies trampling Tibetan rights and boasts of having brought development and prosperity to the region.
Since 2009, at least 121 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protest against Beijing’s policies in Tibet and nearby regions with large Tibetan populations.
Beijing considers the Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a violent separatist. The Dalai Lama, who is based in India, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
Tensions have mounted between Tibet and China since 2008, after the riots that broke out in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan parts of China which led to a government crackdown.