By Tenzin Dharpo
screengrab from the video posted by FB account called BJP All India (not an official BJP page)
DHARAMSHALA, Dec. 4: Tibetan refugee traders in Gwalior in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh were confronted by a group of Indian men on Friday over a row accusing Tibetan traders of not following necessary laws and using the profits against Indian interests later on. A live video shared on a Facebook account named ‘Bjp All India’ which does not appear to be official BJP page on Dec. 4 showed men who referred to themselves as concerned citizens and customers cry foul over the way Tibetan refugee traders conducted business.
The Tibetan refugee market in Gwalior has only 25 shops squeezed into a compound where Tibetan traders earn their whole year’s expenses during a three-month window by selling ready made garments. 74 years old Tsetan who is the leader of the small group of traders told Phayul that the incident was nothing more than an unfortunate act of disruption by local Indian businessmen. He said, “Those people who accuse us of not following the laws of the land do not know that we pay necessary tax in Ludhiana where we source these goods on loan. We have paid the 5% GST (Goods and Services tax) as per the law.”
“We constructed these temporary structures with our own hands, we pay a few lakhs to the local municipal authority just to acquire the land for few months, and have all the necessary approvals and official letters from concerned government offices such as the local municipality, the ADM (Additional District Magistrate) office as well as the local police’s ‘No Objection letter’. The business we do here is legal,” he further said.
Another Tibetan who did not wish to be named said local Indian businessmen are trying to create negative publicity in a bid to disrupt sales by alleging that we are using the limited profits we earn here against India. “Such accusations are absurd. I was born in India, we are refugees here and we have the utmost respect for India and its people. We are small traders looking to feed our families. We have a hand to mouth existence,” he asserted.
When asked about the denial of bill by traders to customers, he explained, “We are selling our goods on the footpath, we do not have actual shops. We are here for only three months. Since there is a commotion on receipts, our small committee is in the process to create arrangements for bill and receipts for our sales, even though what we make here is just about enough to feed our family.”
The incident was addressed after Tibetan authorities reached out to local authorities who assured support.
Known popularly as the ‘winter business’, Tibetan refugees have been engaging in selling ready made garments all over India, especially in cities during the chill of winter when the Indian summer heat retreats for a few months. The practice has become a major contributor to the exile Tibetan economy in the India.
A union was established in August 2006, called Tibetan Refugee Traders’ Association (TFTA) under the Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860) where traders like that in Gwalior have registered. Currently there are 69 such collectives under the TFTA.