By Tenzin Monlam
copy of the letter
DHARAMSHALA, June 23: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the authority issuing passports in India has mandated Tibetans seeking Indian passports under the Citizen Act of 1955 to forfeit any benefits from the Tibetan government in exile (official known as Central Tibetan Administration), including living in a Tibetan refugee settlement.
A letter issued by Regional Passport Office (RPO) in Bengaluru to a monk who applied for Indian passport mentions that he ‘should not be staying at any of the designated Tibetan Refugee Settlements’ and should furnish a declaration on plain paper to the effect that he no longer enjoys CTA’s benefits.
It also mentions that the Registration Certificate (RC) and Identity Certificate (IC), provided by the Indian government as a stay permit and travel document respectively, must be cancelled for his application to process further.
Two women applicants from Bylakuppe were asked to provide a different address other than their current residence in the Tibetan refugee settlement and a monk from Mainpat also faced a similar issue.
However, Simarpal Sawhney, a Delhi-based Advocate, told the Tibet Sun that the new MEA rules are in violation of the Indian Constitution. “These new laws for Tibetans are in violation of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India. They are made by some officials, not following any existing law and there is every reason to challenge these rules in court,” Sawhney said.
Following a landmark judgment of the Delhi High Court last year asking MEA to issue passport to Tibetans born in India between 26 January 1950 and 1 July 1987 in accordance with the Citizen Act of 1955, Tibetan journalist Lobsang Wangyal got his Indian passport this year. The MEA in a memorandum dated March 17 had directed its Regional Passport Offices and foreign missions to make passport facilities available to all Tibetan refugees born in India between the specified dates as per the Act.