By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, MARCH 16: Tibetan showman and founder of Miss Tibet Pageant known for his glitzy personality, Lobsang Wangyal, flaunted his Indian passport after two legal battles in the Delhi High Court at a press conference here on Thursday. Lobsang, however, stated that the legal battle shall continue till his actual goal of paving way for other aspiring Tibetans is accomplished.
“I have received my passport but my fight will go on until the union government of India implements its Citizenship Act, which clearly states that those Tibetans born in India between January 1, 1950 and July 1, 1987 are eligible to apply for an Indian passport,” Lobsang said while questioning the very existence of the law if it is not implemented.
The 46-year-old showman urged the government to make the application a hassle-free procedure without an applicant having to knock the court’s door if he or she fulfills all the necessary criteria. “I had to go to court to get the law enforced. It was a waste of time and money of the court, the government and mine as well. Imagine how much time and money will be wasted if all the Tibetans wanting a passport have to go my way,” he said.
He also said that it was his personal decision to apply for the document and that those who wish to stick to their Identity Certificate (IC), travel document for Tibetans, need not be swayed by the new development.
It is a well understood fact that the formulation of legal procedures and guidelines do take time and Lobsang, after his personal victory, hopes that the government would give a similar directives to that of the Election Commission’s order of providing Voter IDs for all the eligible Tibetans.
As per the precedent, I hope the government would send a similar directive to all the Regional Passport Offices (RPOs) to provide passport to those who fulfill the criteria by the end of the month, he said.
Lobsang who had filed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) against the Union of India in May last year said that his next step would be filing an RTI plea if the guideline is not formulated in time. He added, “I don’t intent to create any disorder or problem through my action. So it is my humble appeal to the government of India to pay heed to the matter, which is true on legal merits.”
As expected of him to rejoice his victory and express his celebratory mood, the man donning many hats – journalist, pageant director, event management entrepreneur, appeared in full red attire at the press conference he had called. Lobsang had few requests and suggestions for both the Indian government and the Tibetan exile government (officially known as Central Tibetan Administration).
He urged the Indian government to frame a guideline to ease the procedure of surrendering the Registration Certificate (RC), a residential permit document issued by the Indian government under the Foreigner’s Act, 1946 and Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, both laws enacted before India’s independence. As for the CTA, he requested the administration to consider a guideline for those who wish to avail the Indian passport without losing on the welfares provided by the CTA since the applicants have to surrender the RC, a mandatory document for most educational and job opportunities.
“RC is a mandatory document for Tibetans seeking benefits provided by CTA. However it is not in the case for those running for Sikyong (Prime Minister) or Kalons (Cabinet Ministers) or the Members of Parliament. So I request Kashag (Executive body of CTA) to rectify this discrepancy and bring uniformity in the rules,” said Lobsang.
The issue of applying for Indian citizenship has long been debated and was ignited further after media reports on a Tibetan woman getting her Indian passport in 2011 following a Delhi High Court order appeared. Former Prime Minister (Trisur) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche had also voiced his reservations regarding Tibetans getting Indian citizenship.
Lobsang said that he is still very much a Tibetan as per the section 2 of the Tibetan Charter’s Article 8 and the provisions prescribed in Article 13 in case of adoption of another citizenship.
Showing his passport and his Voter ID, he said, “Legally, I am an Indian through and through but at heart I am still a Tibetan as I still hold my allegiance to the Tibetan movement and to the CTA. So I am now a Tibetan-Indian.”