Tibetans in exile can apply for Indian citizenship

Dharamsala, Aug 20 (IANS) Tibetan prime minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay Tuesday said any Tibetan in exile in India could apply for Indian citizenship and his administration was not compelling anyone to apply for the citizenship.

"The decision to apply for Indian or any other country's citizenship is a personal choice," Sangay said, according to a post on the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1986 grants citizenship rights to Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 and to those born after 1987 if "either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his/her birth".

"The CTA cannot prevent any Tibetan from applying for Indian citizenship. At the same time, CTA cannot compel Tibetans to apply for Indian citizenship, as the application process entails surrendering both registration certificate and identity certificate documents to the Indian authorities," Sangay said.

Sangay, whose democratically elected cabinet completed two years in office Tuesday, expressed gratitude to the Canadian government for accepting 1,000 Tibetan refugees from Arunachal Pradesh as permanent residents under a special programme.

"The first batch of 204 applicants is expected to leave for Canada this year," he said.

He said provision for 5,000 visas to the US for displaced Tibetans over a three-year period was initiated as an amendment to a larger immigration reform bill currently under consideration in the US Congress.

Sangay took over the reins of the government-in-exile in August 2011 from 74-year-old monk and scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for 10 years but was overshadowed by the Dalai Lama.

With the Dalai Lama stepping down from diplomacy and politics, the prime minister's post has acquired added stature.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959. The Tibetan exile administration is based in this town.

India is home to around 100,000 Tibetans.

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