News and Views on Tibet

Over 66,000 Tibetans in Indian subcontinent: CTA population census

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Image representational (Photo/Qrius)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, Aug 10: There are more than 66,000 Tibetans in India, Nepal and Bhutan according to the latest population census conducted by the Central Tibetan Administration which concluded in July. “We have received around 66,000 forms from the India-Nepal- Bhutan population census. However, we are yet to receive numbers from some schools and also yet to consider the number of men enrolled in the army,” Additional Secretary from the Department of Home, Dawa Tsultrim told Phayul.

The population census is one of the initiatives by the current administration led by President Penpa Tsering. The last census was conducted by the previous administration in 2019. “This year’s applications have been made intentionally simple. The previous one had around 6-7 pages with lots of information to fill. Right now we are only looking to get the right number of the exile population. This one’s not requesting people to fill in RC or IC numbers but is based on the Green Book details only,” Secretary Dawa responded when asked about the difference between the current census and the previous one.

“There could be many people who were unaware of the said documentation or some who could be unwilling to share their personal details for different reasons,” he further said, adding that one can still fill the census form voluntarily at their respective settlement offices if one has not done so already.

The CTA’s latest census data, however found a gap of 4,000 forms during online filing as the spokesperson further explained, “We are currently looking to solve this discrepancy in the numbers of forms we have received. But perhaps Tibetans from the West could have submitted forms through their respective settlements but since their Green Book is listed abroad, it could have complicated their entries.”

Citing the last census conducted in 2019 obtained from the Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) under the CTA’s Department of Home, Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the population of Tibetan refugees in India was 72,312 as of December 2020. There has been a renewed interest in exile to reassess the migration of Tibetans from India to the West, given the significant rise of Tibetans seeking asylum in the US, Canada, UK, Europe among other places. 

10 Responses

  1. The heart of the Tibetan government in exile is that it represents the six million Tibetans. This census/community survey/ poll disrespects this by saying funding and allocation of representatives etc will be based on this.
    Is there a Tibetan word for right to privacy, destruction of credit and security profile/ doxing/ phishing etc etc? It is most probably not a problem for advocates of this survey.
    Last year a Tibetan went to a Chinese consulate for a visa to Tibet– he was interviewed by the visa official and a security official, who said give me your address, phone number, email and invite me to your place and introduce me to Tibetans in your area and I will approve your visa application.
    Now all CCP has to do is be friends with some Tibetans in New York or get the data from Dharamsala.
    Of course, of the over six million Tibetans there will not be any who cannot be cajoled, threatened or bought off by CCP so privacy is not a concern for Tibetans pushing this attempt at data mining for no obvious benefit.
    Yes, yes, the folks pushing this data mining say Tibetan Congress and budget disbursement will be determined by this survey of a fraction of Tibetan population and it is not called for in the constitution. So they seem to lend credence to CCP’s charge that the Tibetan government in exile do not represent the six million Tibetans.
    But this charge cannot stand because this is an ad hoc opinion poll.
    BTW when folks ask me for info I say: sure no problem; give me your data and I will give you my data if I am sure you will not misuse or sell the info. Give respect, get respect– is a good policy.
    If this survey asked for support for various policies– political goals and budget priorities –then this would serve some real useful policy priorities: but this does not.
    The biggest problem is this survey turns CTA into a welfare office of a few exiles rather than showcase a government in exile. But this is just my impression without knowing the workings of the current administration.
    Until now leaders have delegated responsibilities to its officials–now how about a midnight ride on bikes wearing helmet and goggles reminiscent of kings who went incognito in the middle of the night to gauge the welfare of the subjects? Or a demographic survey that asks nothing but personal data.

  2. The census is being sent to Dharamsala computers. China has on more than one occasion stolen data from such computers. HH the Dalai Lama at that time said he did not have anything important in computers. Is Dharamsala getting census data using Signal or WeChat?
    There is no magical benefit in knowing exact census figures for a government in exile because Dharamsala serves the six plus Tibetans in Tibet. Recently, someone had data from CCP for sale but since we know the number of precincts in Tibetan areas etc we can figure out the population of Tibetans.
    This census asks for detailed personal information, including that of relatives, and asks for email and phone numbers. Sim cards in India and Nepal are registered to personal IDs and all phones in Tibet have to have CCP spyware.
    CCP will sooner or later copy all the data in all the computers in Dharamsala and when one makes a phone call to Tibet the GongAnchu will know everything. Is this a bug or a feature?
    I would like Dharamsala Paljor Leykhung to spell out how knowing all this personal identifying details will help government. CCP has had taken all the data of people working for the US secret service so they are experts but maybe the Canadian university computer lab is helping Dharamsala on data encription and safety.
    Another issue is for personal safety and security reasons Tibetans in exile change their name. This census will make this harder.

    1. རི་བོང་གནམ་རྡིབ་ཀྱི་སེམས་ཁྲལ། You give all your information to adhaar card, ration card, RC renewal, even your phone number to dominos, KFC and online shopping, are they not selling your data?

      When CTA asks for some data for developmental projects in the area according to the population etc. people have a problem, when the KFC front desk asks you “phone number bolo” you are like 98823…. the same phone number that is linked to your adhaar, bank accounts, RC, licenses, etc. Hypocrites.

  3. The census is being done in order to accurately find the right total number of Tibetan exiled population; two things necessary- should be allowed through online and without secondary information like religion, education and so forth.

  4. Sad.. in my own family of 18 only 5 registered. I know hundreds of friends and family friends and relatives . nobody registered …reasons are – some are antiPT, some didn’t know about it because they don’t follow Tibetan news and others are too lazy and don’t pay attention. Cta should collab with youth, singers, Insta and YouTube bloggers. Cta should send more young leaders in west and India Nepal to create awareness and Tibetan community leaders around the world should be more creative as now to attract Tibetans. Infact individual should inspire others to participate

  5. The current population if true is a worrying a development. When the Dalai Lama crossed into Tawang in 1959, an estimated 80,000 Tibetans followed him. Over the years until 1991-2, the Tibetan population in India, Bhutan and Nepal ballooned around 153,000. There were very few Tibetans who emigrated to the west. Nobody even thought of such an idea. Everyone settled down in the refugee settlements and raised their families and lived their lives. The Settlement Schools in their respective Tibetan enclaves were bursting with children and so was the CST Schools and TCV Schools. In fact, children from the settlements were not given admission at TCV schools unless they were able to pay fees. Most of the TCV Schools catered for new arrivals from Tibet. There was so much demand for TCV Schools that often it was not possible to get admission even if one could afford to pay the required fees!
    Since 1991-2 when some one thousand Tibetan families were accepted by the US Congress to emigrate to the US, it opened the floodgates of Tibetan immigration to the US and Europe. Switzerland had accepted some 300 families in the early 1960s. By 2004, it had ballooned to 3,000 but today it is boasting of at least 10,000 who have settled there. There is no census of Tibetans living in other parts of Europe such as France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, UK etc
    It’s safe to say thousands have made their way to many parts of North America including Canada where Toronto alone boasts of having 10,000 Tibetans and New York having a similar number!
    While the immigration of Tibetans across the globe may have improved the quality of their lives and the prospect of a better life for their children, it has greatly diminished the Tibetan People’s Movement for the restoration of Tibet’s independence and the preservation of its unique religion, language, culture and identity. Since, they no longer live in a cohesive community like the different Tibetan settlements in India, they have lost the community affinity. The children have lost their touch with the Tibetan community and with that their language, religion and identity. Dispersing into western societies has made the community far more vulnerable to be assimilated and integrated into the cultures, language and practises of the host nation. In most western countries, including Switzerland which has been in the forefront of diaspora cultural preservation in Europe, most young people are not only illiterate in Tibetan language but are unable to speak or understand Tibetan language. Whenever, there is a gathering of Tibetans, there are two speakers who speak in the host’s language for the benefit of the young people and Tibetan for the elders!
    It must be the same in most countries including Australia! As the sun sets for the elder generation, the younger generation is in a conundrum. They don’t feel the sense of connection to Tibet like their parents and also lack the zest for the freedom of Tibet. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Most young people have lost interest in the location of their parent’s birth place such as U-Tsang, Kham or Amdo. It holds no relevance to them any more since they have no idea about the places. Their parents are not happy with such loss of identity.
    The greatest tragedy is the drying up of recruits for the great learning centres such as Sera, Drepung, Ganden and Tashi Lhunpo Monasteries which are all based in South India. These are the equivalent of the great Nalanda, Vikramsala and Taxila Monasteries of ancient India. Great Buddhist scholars and yogis are produced from these learning centres. The Sakya College is based in Rajpur in Uttarkand. Besides there are numerous local camp monasteries that serve the needs of the respective villages in Tibetan settlements. Since, Tibetans are devout Buddhists, every Tibetan camp has a monastery belonging to either Geluk, Sakya, Nyingma or Kagyud. In the case of those who follow Bon religion, their main monastery is based in Solon in Simla and the majority of the residents there follow the Bon religion. Until the 2006, there was a continuous flow of monks, nuns and lay students coming from Tibet to study in the great monasteries re-established in India or secular schools in India.
    However, communist China saw this as both a political liability and a humiliation to its claim of having “liberated” Tibet. The incessant flow of Tibetan refugees from Tibet since occupation, not only embarrassed the CCP but it saw the danger of foreign countries using such development as an pretext to drum up support for Tibet under the guise of persecution and invite foreign invasion just as it happened to erstwhile East Pakistan which culminated in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
    The biggest Nyingma Centre, known as Namdol Ling is based in South India. They have mostly Bhutanese monks as their main recruitment base while the Kagyudpas don’t seem to emphasise much in study. Since their main founders are Marpa and Mila, they claim to emphasise on meditation rather than academia. So, they have no large centres like other traditions. All the same, all the monasteries of all traditions need man power but with the dwindling Tibetan population in India, Bhutan and Nepal, it’s going to be extremely difficult to find new recruits to sustain the level of numbers respectable for their reputation and honour. The nunneries so far had no such problem since there are no dearth of girls from the Himalayan region joining the monasteries in India. China has been training Nepalese police to guard the Tibet-Nepal border since the 2006 Nangpa La massacre by Chinese border guards. China pays nine million US dollars every year to Nepal to patrol and train Nepalese police to stop Tibetan refugees fleeing Chinese persecution. As a result of this, the floodgates became just a trickle and even that has dried up!
    Now it’s a question of how long the great centres of learning will be able to sustain if there are no young Tibetans joining to study Buddhism both from occupied Tibet or from among exile diaspora. Every politician seems to pay lip service about the necessity of PRESERVING OUR RELIGION, LANGUAGE and CULTURE but if the great Centres of Tibetan Buddhism, language and culture disappear owing to the lack of man power, that will be the end of our culture and identity!
    It is therefore time to bring independent Tibet’s law that decrees every second son or middle son of a mother with three sons to be sent to the monastery to be a monk. It is known as བུ་གསུམ་བར་པའི་ཆོས་རྭ་ It’s not good enough to pay lip service anymore. We need concrete action. If this is not enforceable, it must be made compulsory for Tibetan children to spend few years, maximum three years to study Buddhism and Tibetan language and minimum one year in order to get a grip of ones religion and language. Without such drastic action, the monasteries will be forced to close just like many churches in the west as Christianity lost its appeal in Christian countries! In the Tibetan case, the appeal for Buddhism is by no means lost but the source of recruitment has vastly diminished owing to the occupation of our country and the dispossessed exile situation. If we can keep the great learning Centres alive, they will continue to teach the up coming generation on a continual basis. But if the Centres of learning are lost, that will be the end of it. ITS TIME TO ACT TO SAVE TIBETAN BUDDHISM FROM EXTINCTION!

    1. The support of the legislative governments in the West would not have been possible without Tibetan immigrant activists.
      Tibetan Buddhism has historically suppressed nationalism, taught students not to be loyal with ties to one’s family and country while accepting Chinese titles and sponsorship implying vassal status.
      Now, this census seems to imply an organization representing six million Tibetans should spend time identifying some 100k Tibetans in exile.
      How any of this solves the problem of high lamas and young Tibetans pursuing the life of laymen and women I fail to see. Yes, most of the new monks are Himalayan ethnic Tibetans but that is because the Buddhist learning centers represent a better future.
      Tibetan monasteries should offer vocational training because employment rather than farming and herding provides food, clothing and shelter. Above all, high lamas should stop chasing women and money.

  6. The CTA must be the only exile-government/ representative organization that perpetually undercounts its population and then enthusiastically releases the results. If having a small population will lead to less funding, political power, and being taken less seriously by the international community, why publicize a number that we know is an undercount? The campaign to get everyone counted should be much more robust. Our population in all three countries can’t be less than what the Indian government alone estimates resides in India. Even their number probably doesn’t count many people.

    1. We can take about 15-20% who do not wish to participate in the population census due to their personal reasons or are unaware of the such census, it’s not CTA who has technically publicized the data but the news agencies who are constantly on their back and in front of the office gate to release the data. I remember last time the miss Tibet organizer dude threatened the CTA via email to publish all census-related data in the public domain citing the Right to Information crap. They only care about the data required for their news articles, nothing else afterward.

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