In a first, 217 Tibetan refugees to vote in HP

In a first, 217 Tibetan refugees to vote in HP

Tibetan refugees in Himachal Pradesh will cast their votes for the first time when the state goes to polls on May 7. Following a nod from the Election Commission, as many as 217 Tibetans, whose voter identity cards were made by authorities, will be eligible to exercise their franchise in the hill state.

Himachal has nearly 50,000 Tibetans, majority of whom reside in McLeodganj in Dharamshala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile. It is also home to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who relinquished his political mentorship of the in-exile Tibetan government two years ago, thus paving the way for elections to appoint a new prime minister who has complete political control over Tibetan affairs. According to the guidelines of the Election Commission of India, Tibetans born in India on or after January 26, 1950 and before July 1, 1987, have the right to exercise their franchise. However, many Tibetans have not registered themselves as voters, given that they may want to return to their homeland someday.

Shedding their ‘refugee’ tag for the sake of voting in India, sources said, is also an emotional issue for many who feel this would affect their struggle for Tibet’s autonomy.

Sources in the Himachal Pradesh government said there were 243 Tibetans who had applied for registration as voters, out of which 217 will be eligible to cast their vote this Wednesday.

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