So Mr Wangyal, whose parents fled Tibet as teenagers, went to court to demand for his right for an Indian passport.
Dharamsala/New Delhi: Event organiser Lobsang Wangyal has to travel overseas often, but as a Tibetan refugee born in India, he did not have a passport and sometimes had to wait days to get the mandatory permits every time he went abroad.
So Mr Wangyal, whose parents fled Tibet as teenagers, went to court to demand for his right for an Indian passport. In response to his petition, the Delhi high court said authorities must abide by an earlier ruling that all Tibetans born in India between January 1950 and July 1987 were Indian citizens by birth, and could be issued passports.
The order came to effect in March. Mr Wangyal got his Indian passport shortly thereafter and used it to go to Thailand. For the first time, he was spared the additional scrutiny that his documents always got from immigration officials. “I feel like a real person now, having obtained a passport,” said Mr Wangyal, 47, who was born in a Tibetan settlement in eastern Odisha state and now lives in the hill town of Dharamsala.
“Tibetans are seen as refugees and stateless in India. Being seen that way after having been born and lived our whole lives in India is unfair and impractical,” he said. Tibetans have been seeking asylum in India since the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese occupation.
The Indian government has funded schools to provide free education for Tibetans, and reserved seats in medical and engineering colleges. Those eligible can get voter identification cards.
But Tibetans do not have citizenship rights, which limits their access to government jobs and freedom of movement within and outside India. They cannot own land or property. In some states, they cannot get driving licenses or bank loans. Those without identity documents are at the risk of harassment, arrests and deportation to China.
“The status of statelessness is demoralising and frustrating. There’s a lot of emotional turmoil,” said Tenzin Tselha, an activist.