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Not many Tibetans register as voters in India

(TibetanReview.net, May03, 2014) – Only a small number of born Tibetan citizens of India, hitherto considered as foreigners, appear to have registered to vote in the ongoing general election in India following a clearance given by the Election Commission of India in February this year. In the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, wherein Dharamsala, the headquarters of the exile Tibetans, is located, only 243 had applied, reported timesofindia.indiatimes.com May 2.

Of them, 217 have been registered and they will be casting their ballots for the first time on May 7, the report added, citing Kangra deputy commissioner-cum-district electoral officer C Paulrasu.

It is not clear yet how many have registered in other districts of India. But indications are that the numbers are small.

One reason for this is that despite two High Court rulings, one of which is the basis of the Election Commission notice of Feb 7, the government of India has not taken any step to recognize the citizenship status of all Tibetans born in the country between Jan 26, 1950 and Jul 1, 1987 and their children. This makes many such, eligible Tibetans hesitant to register themselves as voters.

Also, there are many Tibetans who do not want to register themselves as voters and thereby acknowledge themselves as Indian citizens purely for sentimental reasons. It makes them feel that they may be seen as having given up the struggle for the Tibetan cause. Indeed, an indianexpress.com report May 2 said that the Election Commission’s offer of voter IDs had evoked little enthusiasm in Tibetan settlements in Karnataka state, with only a few enrolling themselves as voters and most of them preferring to retain their RCs, or foreigner’s registration certificates. The state hosts the largest portion of Tibetans living in exile in five agricultural settlements.

India is home to around 90,000 Tibetans, many of them not born citizens and therefore not eligible to register as voters.

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