Need to go beyond right to vote

Tibetan voices

Need to go beyond right to vote
It was another ordinary day at the Tibetan colony in North Delhi. In the shade of the community courtyard, surrounded by the Buddhist temple and the monastery, Majnu-ka-tila sprung in action as adults chatted while wolfing down hot idlis, bonda and halwa, sipping tea while the children played alongside.

The Election Commission orders to enrol Tibetans born in India between 1950 to July 1987 seem to have elicited no extraordinary reactions. 
Karten Tsering, the president of Samyeling New Aruna Nagar, Resident Welfare Association states, “I have been wondering what is so unprecedented about it. Just the fact that the EC put it in writing? It guarantees no new privilege to Tibetan diaspora in India as it is common knowledge that according to the Citizenship Act of 1955 (which was later amended in 1986), every child born in India bears an Indian citizenship and the amendment was not retroactive.”

Karten who was born in India in 1968, says, “It is an individual’s decision to take up voting rights or not. Since I was born in India, married here and brought up my children in this country, the EC orders do not turn around the situation for us. What could turn the tables around is the moment when we will not be treated as ‘foreigners’ when we protest in India.” 

Enjoying his morning cuppa in the balmy courtyard opposite the RWA office, Tenzin Wangchuk, finance secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, shows some enthusiasm when enquired about the issue of voting rights. 

“People who are scared about its impact on our tradition, culture and our movement should give it a thought: Our movement and our struggle will get an impetus if we get an identity.” 
He goes on to mention, “Our people usually end up being call centre employees, beauticians or take up petty businesses. This move may empower us to represent our people politically.

Then we wouldn’t have to urge different parties for their support to our cause.” 

Tenzin acquired his voting card a year ago, at the age of 40, he says, “It becomes an arduous task to show a birth certificate to gain other rights in India and that hinders other processes. 
Our ancestors were simpletons. Thankfully, I was born in a hospital in Delhi so 
I could acquire my voting card easily.” 

Dawa Tsering, a 43-year-old travel agency operator from Himachal Pradesh says, “Tibetans are spreading across the globe and taking up citizenships in foreign countries to spread the message about our movement. So, there’s no question about Indian voting rights diluting our sentiment for our movement. In fact, India is the first country where our movement started. Like the contours of the movements shaped over the years, as a matter of time, Tibetans also started claiming their citizenship rights like Namgyal Dolkar struggled when she was denied an Indian passport.”  
At that instant, Tenzin chipped in to question, “What will be interesting to know is what do Indian youngsters think about it? 

In a highly populated country like India, would they be fine with the idea of having a Tibetan leader emerging out of Tibetan population at some point of time?”

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