By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 10: The past few weeks in the north-eastern corner of India just a few hundred kilometers away from their native Tibet, Tibetan refugees have come under extreme prosecution and duress to abandon everything that they have owned for the past few decades.
Self styled students’ organization SUMMA (Students United Movement for All Arunachal) has initiated the “Anti Tibetan Refugee Movement” calling for ousting of Tibetan refugees from the state. The organization calls for the roll back of the central and state government adopted initiative, ‘Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy 2014’ against the threat of aggressive and targeted expulsion of Tibetan refugees from the state beginning from the capital Itanagar. Banners calling for expulsion of Tibetans were seen in and around the capital.
SUMMA on Oct. 3 issued an ultimatum to the state government to act on their demands by their deadline which expired today. This morning, the vicinity of Tibetan owned shops in Itanagar and Naharlagun town were guarded by armed police and military escorts while the rally of a few hundred students cried slogans such as “roll back TRP” and “Tibetans out”. While there has not been any incident of violence reported, Tibetans feel that it would be a different scenario without the police.
“The state cabinet’s decision to adopt TRP 2014 is a matter of great concern. It is sad to see that the state government focusing on the welfare of the refugees while neglecting important issues of the state,” SUMAA Vice President Kaling Moyong said at a press conference last week.
“Once TRP 2014 is implemented, all the benefits such as MGNREGA, PDS, Indira Awas Yojana, and National Rural Health Mission provided by the Centre to our people will be snatched away by the refugees, which will disturb the state’s ethnic balance,” Moyang told the press.
The organization also released a list of all the shops owned by Tibetans with their names in the Capital Complex area who they said will be targeted individually and “forcefully evicted”.
The District Administration office said that the proposed eviction of the Tibetan refugees by SUMMA is “illegal and “deprivation of natural justice”. The DA office imposed Section 144 Cr Pc, restricting assembly of more than three people within Tibetan settlement/ rental areas within the Capital Complex since October 6 as well as carrying of arms in the area.
Deputy Commissioner Prince Dhawan yesterday met with the regional Tibetan authority (Itanagar, Tenzigang and Bomdila settlement officer under Central Tibetan Administration) Yangdup and some Tibetan people, assuring them of protection.
Settlement Officer Yangdup told Phayul that the rally by SUMMA was peaceful and no evictions took place due to the placement of police in the area. “The assurances and help from the law enforcement authorities were overwhelming,” he said while adding that the ongoing incident has been the most aggressive display of tension towards Tibetan refugees in his four and a half year tenure there.
Opposition leader Kaling Jerang, Secretary General of the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) said that the Pema Khandu-led BJP government had shown extraordinary urgency in adopting TRP 2014 without the knowledge of some senior cabinet ministers and without any discussion in the assembly.
“The letter of proposal numbered POL/Tibetan-428/2017/395 issued by the state’s Political Department on August 9 for implementation of TRP 2014 in Arunachal Pradesh should immediately be withdrawn and a fresh government order circulated to all districts and departments accordingly,” Jerang told The Sentinal.
However, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju who is from Arunachal himself has said that the implementation of the TRP will not affect the indigenous people of Arunachal and that Tibetan refugee numbers have been dropping in the state with Canada accepting 1000 Tibetans just last year and less than 7500 Tibetans refugees live in the state today. State Chief Minister Pema Khandu also stated in a recent meeting at Tawang that no decision would be taken which would hamper the interest of the state.
The Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy assures welfare to Tibetan refugees in India on matters concerning land lease, extending central and state government benefits, relevant papers/trade license/permit for economic activity and legal permit to pursue any professional career such as nursing, teaching, Chartered Accountancy, medicine, engineering etc, depending upon the qualification.
Till date, Karnataka government has been the only state to begin implementing the policy. In Dec 2016, the Tibetan refugee settlement of Mundgod became the first settlement to be handed over the land lease agreement by Karnataka State.
Arunachal Pradesh has the fourth largest number of Tibetans in India, with four settlements in Tezu, Miao, Tuting, and Tenzingang. In India, there are close to 90,000, according to a 2009 CTA census.