(TibetanReview.net, Jan14’16) – Despite an order from the Election Commission of India based on a recent High Court decision that all Tibetans born in India before Jul 1987 and their children, being citizens, should be registered as voters, Tibetans living in the Tashi Jong settlement near Baijnath-Paprola in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh state have been prevented from voting during a municipal-level election held on Jan 10. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Tibetan said that they were told by the election official that the Deputy Commissioner (DC) from Dharamshala had instructed him to block Tibetans from casting their votes, reported Tibetsun.com Jan 12.
Only few hundred Tibetans have chosen to assert their Indian citizenship after two different High Court rulings since 2010. The Election Commission of India issued an order in Feb 2014, ahead of voting for general elections in Apr 2014, that all Tibetans who are born citizens and their children should be registered as voters. But only few hundred Tibetans chose to register while the vast majority have preferred to remain stateless. Also, the government of India requires that even Tibetans born within the citizen-by-birth cut-off period and their children should also register as foreigners, allowed to live in India on temporary basis on humanitarian ground.
About a hundred Tibetans in the Tashi Jong Tibetan settlement were reported to have registered as voters after the election commission order. There are no reports of any Tibetan having lodged a protest or complaint after being turned away from the voting booth.
The Municipal Corporation election in Dharamshala is said to be due in February. It is believed that around 200 eligible Tibetans have registered as voters there. It remains to be seen whether the election commission’s order, which followed rulings by Delhi and Karnataka High Courts, will be nullified there too.
India is home to just around 100,000 Tibetans, many of them having fled their Chinese ruled homeland after the citizen-by-birth cut-off date of Jun 30, 1987 after which the country’s amended citizenship law stopped recognizing citizenship by birth.