Tibetan Refugees For First Time To Vote In Himachal Assembly Elections

Dharamshala: It is for the first time that many Tibetans living in Himachal since 1960 as refugees will participate in this assembly elections of the state. They are all set to cast their vote for new government in Himachal Pradesh. Tibetans started registering themselves as voters during parliamentary elections. This time too new voters have registered for upcoming polls in the state. Officials said that about 300 new voters have been registered this time.

Tibetan Welfare officer Tenzin Norbu said that 1400 are included in the voters list of Himachal Pradesh, though only 40 have been given Indian citizenship. “most of them are from Dharamshala and its surrounding areas, Dharamshala  considered as the global capital of the Tibetan residents across the world. Voting rights to Tibetans were granted in 2014,” added Norbu.

Clarifying the issue of Tibetans in India taking Indian citizenship, President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay said that the Kashag (Cabinet) has no objections.

“The Constitution of India already says that those who were born in India between 1950 and 1987 are citizens of India. How could Kashag deny that?”He explained that a Tibetan taking Indian citizenship will not affect his or her status as a Tibetan national, as the exile Tibetan Charter has clearly said that any Tibetan in exile could take citizenship of another country.

“Any Tibetan, as long as they are holding the Green Book [tax payment to CTA], could take part in the Tibetan elections and could even become the Sikyong, President of the CTA,” Sangay said.Additional Chief election officer of Himachal D K Ratan said that their names are included in the voters list as per law, and they are eligible to vote in coming elections. He added that Article 6 of the exile Tibetan Charter says that the CTA must ensure that they follow the rule of the land. “When the Government of India has issued new rules, we have to follow that.”

The Election Commission (EC)  ordered all states in Februry 14 to include children of Tibetan refugees in the electoral list. For the first time in 55 years voting rights for Tibetans in exile in the country.

According to the orders dated February 7,2014 children of Tibetan refugees born in India between the cut-off date of 1950 and 1987, as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955, can no longer be denied enrolment in voters’ list. The move on part of the EC comes in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees.

There are about 1.20 lakh Tibetan refugees currently living across the country with their largest settlement being in Bylakuppe in Karnataka. The Tibetan parliament-in-exile is based in Dharamshala elected by a 90,000-strong voter base spread across 53 settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan.

There are about 1400 Tibetan voters in the Himachal Pradesh, out of it 217 are from Dharamshala, while majority are from Bir-Billing area of Kangra district. There are about 1047 voters from Bir area. “There are total 1400 Tibetan voters in state according to the records available with us,” said Shravan Manta, Sub Divisional Magistrate at Dharamshala.

Lobsang Wangyal, Tibetan activist and a registered voter said that they had earlier voted in Municipal Corporation elections in Dharamshala and Lok sabha polls now this was for the first time that Tibetans are going to vote in assembly polls. “I think it’s time to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We should be part of the community in which we have been living in, while still ensuring that our own identity and mission is kept intact” he said.

Congress government has already nominated one Tibetan as councillor in Municipal Corporation in Dharamshala.

As per estimate over one lakh Tibetan refugees are residing in India. Of 49 lakh registered voters on the electoral roll published on September 15, there are only 12 transgenders. The number of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) voters is just four. There are 24.98 lakh male voters with women vote strength at 24.07 lakh. On the latest electoral roll, there are 1.25 lakh new voters. Of these, 40,567 are the first-time voters in the age group of 18-19, CEO Rajput said. On the old list, the election commission also found names of 47,523 people who were dead.

Himachal has 68 MLAs, 15 of them are from Kangra district with smart city Dharamshala as its head quarter.

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