Part Nine – Suppression Of Labour


Labour Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. (1)

Samdhong Rinpoche’s manipulation

If keeping the labour force suppressed is a useful way for a government to maintain control, then certainly discouraging exile Tibetans to take citizenship in India can be seen as a useful way to disempower the Tibetan workforce. More information about the history and impact of the statelessness of exile Tibetans in India is given below. What is of interest currently is an interview given to Tibet Sun by the former Kalon Tripa, (equivalent of Sikyong)  Samdhong Rinpoche in August 2016 (30)


First of all it would be important to note that whilst Samdhong is retired from his  official position he is still a very powerful individual within the Tibetan community, both politically and religiously. (The two go hand in hand in the exile community, as is reflected in the fact ordained individuals have two votes in elections, in contrast to the one vote of lay people.) He continues to represent the wishes of the Dalai Lama, as is shown by the fact he presented the Dalai Lama’s views to the newly elected Sikyong and Kashag, who were forced to apologise for their ‘behaviour’ during the election. ‘We had an audience with His Holiness, and if he is not happy he must be giving pardon to whosoever have done the wrong. And we also approached the Chitue [exile parliament] and Kashag together: You must approach His Holiness and say sorry, and you must try to clarify whatever misunderstanding or whatever is [causing] His Holiness unhappiness, that should be removed.’ (30) It seems clear from this interaction that the balance of power still lies with the Dalai Lama and his cronies and not those democratically elected by the exile Tibetans.


Sikyong Candidates Apologise (32)

In the Tibet Sun interview Samdhong was asked his views on Tibetans taking Indian citizenship. On the surface Samdhong appears to be neutral on this subject, ‘To become any country’s citizen is an individual’s right, and nobody can stop that. And it is for the individual, whether he or she should retain Tibetan citizenship, or give it up and adopt the other country’s citizenship, that is all an individual’s right and nobody can encroach it.’ However it is clear that Samdhong is far from neutral as his answers contain misinformation and the manipulative use of what can only be described as propaganda techniques.

The misinformation begins with; ‘But in the other countries, without taking citizenship, there are many limitations and difficulties. In India you can remain not an Indian citizen, it is not a problem. All the rights are equal. Even the Tibetan refugees, and descendants, can compete in Indian administrative services, or Indian foreign services, or Indian defence services, and they can do business, and they can purchase land and property — it differs from state to state, but you can get permission from the bank and the state. So therefore the need to become citizen is very limited. As a citizen or a non-citizen there’s not much different in freedom and rights are concerned.’ (30) This statement is wholly inaccurate as is illustrated by this information given in the 2016 report, Tibet’s Stateless Nationals 111,  by Tibet Justice Center (31).


This report identifies: ‘Despite many qualifying as refugees under international law and many others as citizens of India, all Tibetans in India are viewed in policy and practice as “foreigners.” Being treated as a “foreigner” significantly restricts the lives of Tibetans in India – from property ownership, to employment, to freedom of movement within and outside of India, and to the fear of deportation to China and the consequent imprisonment and torture that would very likely happen to them there. While India has been a generous host in many ways, despite not having signed the UN Refugee Convention, the current situation is that Tibetans in India live in an uncertain position, restricted from exercising the full rights of citizens, and vulnerable to changes in political will.’ (31) This is the third report by the Tibet Justice Centre, all previous reports contained similar evidence of the instability and lack of legal rights of the Tibetans who are not being granted citizenship in India. Samdhong would have had access to these reports, along with all other articles and reports published by organisations such as the UN and newspapers in recent years, that verify this information. The question needs to be asked why does Samdhong ignore these facts and convey wrong information to exile Tibetans; many of whom take his statements on ‘blind faith,’ due to his close position to the Dalai Lama, and his status as an ordained Buddhist monk, who has taken vows not to lie.


Samdhong also states that taking Indian citizenship would mean that Tibetans would lose their right to the benefits of being a Tibetan refugee in India: ‘If you need to apply for land or any other thing that is given for Tibetan refugees, then you are not eligible. You are an Indian citizen. So you will not get a piece of land, or house, or free education in the schools. All this that is given to Tibetan refugees would have to be stopped. So therefore parents, and their children, and the Indian department, nobody has bothered. Of course they are all in the free schools. So if you say now, I’m not taking RC, that boy may be in class eight, nine, they can say, now you have to pay fees. Something like that. This is the technical problem.’ (30) This statement is clearly intended to raise fear of financial insecurity for the exile Tibetans. This is altogether misleading as the Tibetans are not viewed as refugees by India; ‘Despite many qualifying as refugees under international law and many others as citizens of India, all Tibetans in India are viewed in policy and practice as “foreigners.”’ (31)  This is also misinformation as according to the Tibetan Charter individuals will retain Tibetan citizenship despite taking Indian citizenship and should therefore still be entitled to these benefits. This can only be described as fear mongering propaganda tactics.



Charter of Tibetans in Exile (33)

The psychological propaganda comes in Samdhong’s reply to the question; ‘Would there be any ramifications toward the Tibetan freedom movement if Tibetans become citizens of other countries? Samdhong replies: ‘One’s own race or nation is always combined with that. Then what the basic difference would be, is then the person can work as Tibet supporter, not as a Tibetan. As a Tibetan, I fight for my own rights. And Tibet support groups, I support the Tibetan people for fighting for their rights. So this will be the difference. Psychologically, there could be some ramifications, to work as a Tibetan, and as a Tibet supporter.’ Samdhong is in effect saying that by taking citizenship of India the exile Tibetans would no longer be able to call themselves ‘Tibetans’ only ‘Tibet Supporter.’ This is a blatant manipulation of the Tibetans’ nationalistic pride.  By implying Indian citizenship would undermine the national identity of the individual Samdhong’s propaganda works to to keep Tibetans in the vulnerable position of statelessness, ensuring they remain fully dependent on the exile government and charity handouts.

The full extent of Samdhong’s use of misinformation and propaganda is identified in the comments below the article, causing one person to state: ‘Beware of the clever debater who can make white look black and black look white. He is good at mind game and word game. He also represents Tibetan orthodoxy. His greatest enemy would be an informed Tibetan public.’

Historical Background

‘At the time Chinese troops entered the country, Tibet had very few human resources; barely a quarter of the population was literate, there was no modern technology to speak of and only an elite few children attended school. Despite the lack of a modern education system most people were able to earn a living. They were farmers and craftsmen following their ancestral profession as their fathers and grandfathers had before them. Now, in exile, the literacy rate is over 75% and it can be assumed that almost every child under the age of 13 attends school. However, unemployment plagues the community in exile.’ (2)

‘When Tibetans first came into exile, most of them were starving or wounded, sick from the low altitude and stunned by the cultural shock of coming into a distant world, with the result that, many died from disease, the hot climate and the trauma they had undergone leaving their land.


In the beginning many of them engaged in road construction works in the hilly states of India. Gradually, they were rehabilitated in the newly created settlements in south and central India. Tibetans were trained in cultivating local Indian crops like maize, millet, rice and mustard and soon after, agriculture became the main source of livelihood. At the same time Tibetans have started selling winter garments especially sweaters in streets of towns and cities of India. Today sweater selling business has become a dominant economic activity for Tibetans in India; although agriculture is a major primary occupation of Tibetans, especially for those living in agricultural based settlements in south India.

sweater 1

Percentage Share of Sources of Income *

Economic Activities % age share of income % age share of workforce
Agriculture & allied activities 8.5 26.4
Artisans and crafts 4.2 5.7
Hotels and restaurant 3.3 1.9
Organized trade or business 30.7 16.2
Professional job 0.6 0.3
Salaried employment 23.0 20.1
Small enterprises 14.1 12.1
Unorganized trade or business 10.7 11.1
Casual work 4.8 6.2

Apart from the primary sources of income, the Tibetan households also rely on subsidiary sources of income, which include income from sponsorships, government and foreign remittances. Many of the economically deprived households are either being looked after by the government or are supported by sponsors from abroad.'(3)

‘During the first wave of Tibetan refugees, the Indian government offered Tibetans public works jobs for subsistence pay. These jobs included building roads in the high Himalayan regions, as well as positions in special military and paratrooper units of the Indian Army protecting the high-altitude Himalayan borders of India and China. Otherwise, Tibetans are excluded from holding public office and owning property. India has been far less welcoming of this second wave and more recent refugees. According to UNHCR, although the Indian government tolerates these “new arrivals”, like earlier arrivals they are barred from engaging in any political activities. However, many of these newer refugees were denied residence permits, and because existing Tibetan settlements were not allowed to expand, they started becoming overcrowded.’ (4)

Current Situation

‘The exact number of unemployed youth in Exile Tibetan diaspora is hard to come by. However, it is clear that the proportionate or relative unemployment rate of Exile Tibetan community in India is extremely high. This high rate of unemployment has become a major impediment for creating economically self-reliant community in Exile. A Demographic Survey conducted by the Planning Commission, C.T.A. in 2009 shows that only 39% of total workforce populations (aged, 15-64) are main-workers. Economically, those remaining 61% is not only underutilized human capital but add up the opportunity cost on those who are economically productive. A study on Status of unemployment among Tibetan Youth conducted in Hunsur Tibetan settlement (Rigzin, 2009) shows that many of seasonally unemployed youth remains economically unproductive for more than 8-10 months a year. About 50 % of respondents do economically productive work for only 3-4 months in a year. From economic perspective, it is waste of the most valuable human resources.’ (5)


‘Even Tibetans born and raised in India — second- and third-generation refugees — find the going tough when it comes to finding work. According to the Tibetan Demographic Survey carried out by the Central Tibetan Administration, unemployment rates are as high as 75%. “I know many people without jobs,” says Theton Jigme, 31, an employee with the Central Tibetan Administration who found his present job three years after completing an undergraduate degree at a university in Chandigarh. “We have some 1,250 Tibetan students graduating each year, but we can only provide government jobs to 5% of them.”

‘When they first arrived the Tibetans were better able to tolerate the difficult conditions of living in exile. They were used to a harsh life and thought they would all go back to Tibet soon. Fifty years on, however, the situation is very different, because the expectations have changed.’ (6) ‘The number of school and college graduates increasing every year, about 1250 students passing out every year from the schools and colleges in India. The chances of these youth getting employment in our community are very low as total absorption capacity is just five percent. The new generation of Tibetans can be accommodated either in Tibetan administration service or in other services in exiled community. Thanks to the liberalization policy of Indian government, which has benefited not only the Indian masses, but educated Tibetan youths also by getting jobs easily in the corporate world in major cities, as many Tibetan youths are presently employed in the corporate sector in jobs ranging from executive to providing customer care service. Although, it seems to solve the unemployment problem this will have a far-reaching consequences on Tibetan community as a whole in future. Until and unless Tibetan administration in exile are able to initiate sustainable rural based economy in the settlements, the problem of Tibetan migrating to other places will continue.’ (3)

The Central Tibetan Administration are fully aware of the problem, in their own words: ‘The inability of these occupations to sustain the settlers have caused their migration for much of the year for seasonal businesses such as sweater retailing, thus making the settlements just a place for temporary residence and thereby leading to gradual disintegration of the settlements. This has a huge impact on the culture, education and community organizations of the Tibetan society. If this process is not effectively checked with a sense of urgency, then in the next few decades, the settlements with a community life might not exist and social organizations may become redundant. With the Tibetans being dispersed throughout the world, the existence of Tibetan identity will be at great risk…about one fifth of Tibetans living in the south Asia swings between subsistence and poverty. The squeezing man-land ratio coupled with lack of economic resources and human skills/education make the population vulnerable to unfavourable external and internal changes. In addition, they find themselves in the most remote parts of India with little or no employment opportunities.’ (7)

Health Care in Exile Tibet

Recently, in March 2016,  the Dalai Lama acknowledged problems in the settlements are not being addressed properly by the CTA ‘Dalai Lama today pointed towards a possible failure on the part of the Central Tibetan Administration’s department of health and the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute in providing healthcare to the Tibetan public. “It appears that there has been a significant failure by Health Department and the Tibetan medicine section of the Men-Tse-Khang in tackling issues related to preventive measures in healthcare. While there are many Tibetans in the settlements that are afflicted with various ailments, we engage in pomposity here.’ (27) The Dalai Lama was using his concern for the health of the Tibetan community as a way to publicly undermine the Sikyong, but nevertheless he is acknowledging that the health problem exists.

The official CTA website acknowledges there is a healthcare problem when publicising their response to the problem, the Tibetan Medicare System (TMS), a community based health insurance scheme. ‘In 2009 CTA survey, it was found that over 45% of the Tibetan exile community suffers from diseases such as Cancer, Tuberculosis, Liver cirrhosis, Diabetes and heart diseases, which require a high degree of secondary and tertiary care. Lack of an adequate healthcare coverage has been a major cause of high mortality as well as a primary cause of poverty and financial insecurity amongst the community. Under the leadership of the Kashag of Honorable Sikyong Dr.Lobsang Sangay, the Department of Health had launched the implementation of TMS Health Plan on 1st April, 2012. Since then, TMS is being implemented successfully, for close to four years now and has provided an equitable and comprehensive healthcare coverage to the Tibetans living in India. During last four years, 49,000 Tibetans have enrolled in the TMS and more than 2000 have availed the benefits till date.  However, more participation of the Tibetan public is crucial to build TMS stronger and self-reliant; and to pre-empt financial constraints faced by the Tibetans during medical emergencies…The revised TMS Health Plan got operational from 1st April 2015 and aims to further strengthen health care mechanisms by providing sustainability to the existing TMS Health plan. With this, the revised TMS Health Plan proposes to cover all the exile Tibetan population in India.’

Three observations can be made about this announcement:

  1. It somewhat surprising that it took until 2012 for the administration to implement a stuctured plan considering the results of the health survey in 2009 were extremely poor. Indeed it wasn’t until 2015 that this Plan was offered to ‘all the Tibetan population.’
  2. The announcement states they have provided ‘sustainability’ to the existing TMS Health plan, however the plan seems to be being supported by a large donation from America; ‘USAID sponsored Subsidy of 70% (Rs.2500 out of Rs.3565) of TMS contribution.’ This is still ‘sustainability’ that relies on foriegn aid.
  3. There is an interesting order of priority in the allocation of the US subsidy for the scheme, with ‘monks and nuns’ included in the list, seemingly regardless of whether they have a health problem or not, and families of ‘Families of Tibetan Staffs employed by CTA and Non CTA Tibetan Institutions in India,’ also regardless whether they have a health problem of not. (28)


Protracted refugee syndrome

‘After 53 years of exile, Tibetans in exile suffer from what UNHCR defines as “protracted refugee syndrome.” A report by the Executive Committee of UNHCR states: “The consequences of having so many human beings in a static state include wasted lives, squandered resources … camps save lives in the emergency phase (but) as the years go by, they progressively waste these same lives. A refugee may be able to receive assistance, but is prevented from enjoying those rights that would enable him or her to become a productive member of a society. Protracted refugee situations also waste lives by perpetuating poverty: lack of income and assets; voicelessness and powerlessness in the institutions of state and society; and vulnerability to adverse shocks… The prolongation of refugees’ dependence on external assistance also squanders precious resources of host countries, donors and refugees. Limited funds and waning donor commitment only ensure that such situations are perpetuated, not solved.”                                                                                                    In May 2012, the New Delhi based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses published a detailed report entitled: “Tibet and India’s Security” ( The authors visited many Tibetans settlements in India and conducted extensive interviews with officials of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). The report concluded that exiled Tibetans are grateful to India, and are so small in number they pose no security threat towards the host country, which frequently occurs in protracted refugee situations. But the authors also observe that Tibetan exiles “continue to be weighed down by the strain of statelessness, the price of holding on to their Tibetan identity while being unable to return home as free people (but) the CTA prefers exile/ refugee status because not being refugees will be (A) a blow to the freedom struggle (B) Loss of Tibetan culture (C) Loss of refugee status and foreign funding.”                                                                                                                              The dependence on a narrative of victimization is another symptom of protracted refugee syndrome; it becomes a means to generate sympathy and exoneration, and to sustain a model that appeals to donor agencies. Perpetuating the outdated settlement model in India, and the prototype of the needy-but-cheerful Tibetan refugee distorts the realities and needs of exiles, and is especially harmful to young people who are culturally integrated with India and Nepal, but feel handicapped and stigmatized by “foreigner” status. A new report entitled “Tibetan Refugees in India Declining Sympathies, Diminishing Rights,” by the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center, based in New Delhi states: “The strong cultural heritage of the Tibetan community – their identities, memories and narratives – have come to be informed by an increasingly strong meta-narrative focused on religiosity and suffering. This meta-narrative is built both intentionally and organically by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGIE) and numerous organizations openly funded and supported by foreign associations and agencies. Ironically, as the target of the meta- narrative is to support Tibetans and to conserve their cultural affluence and tradition, it also restrains the independence of personal experience, generating homogenized narratives.                                                                                            “The TGIE staff expressed satisfaction with the economic situation of the Tibetans. But individual Tibetans revealed a different story. They expressed deep concern over their poor economic condition. They have no regular and fixed income because of the uncertainty and temporary nature of their professions. This was attributed to their refugee status; it was felt that citizenship could improve their economic conditions. (In 1999, the average annual income for a Tibetan refugee in India was $150, as compared to $359 for Indian nationals).                                                                                                                                                                         “It appears that in addition to scaling down of assistance to Tibetan refugees, the Government of India has, in recent years, been looking eastward to improve relations with China. The combination of these two factors could spell disaster for Tibetans in India.” (25)

The reality of life in the exile community today

‘In the northern Indian hill town of Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile administration, young Tibetan men hanging out or playing games and cards all day is a common sight.’ (8)’ The traditional way of life seems alien to many second and third-generation Tibetans and increasing substance abuse in youngsters is a major cause of concern. As per the study “Substance Abuse Among Second-Generation Tibetan Refugees Living in India,” by Catherine Carlson (9) found two significant commonalities among the subjects she interviewed — an addiction to pharmaceutical drugs and their status as second-generation refugees in India. “The increased use of pharmaceutical drugs among Tibetan youth, for example, exposes political weakness whereas the disproportionate number of second-generation Tibetans addicted to drugs questions factors such as sense of identity and unemployment”.’ (2)

The following description of the degeneration of the refugee settlements in India clearly illustrates the Gilded Cage effect for Tibetans ‘shackled to refugee status’ (10): ‘The Tibetan settlements created by Pandit Nehru were never meant to be permanent. The CTA still manages programs created by the Indian government in 1960’s, still largely funded by the Indian government, with minor donations from other governments and NGO’s. This aid provides the bare necessities for survival, but the old settlements are disintegrating, filled with poor, often broken families, frustrated with policies that consign them to isolation and exclusion by prolonging the unsettled legal status of Tibetans into a 6th decade. If the dominant purpose of going into exile was to escape the bondage of Chinese rule, live in freedom, and support the Tibet cause, how does keeping thousands of people in a decaying, isolated camp system, unable to work, vote, buy a house or register a business in the country that has rescued and protected the Tibetan people, a country where many Tibetans are already well assimilated, where HH Dalai Lama lives and where Tibetan culture is much more intact than anywhere in the west, a country that is the world’s largest democracy and a global power, how does this benefit the Tibetan cause?

What is not widely understood is that under Indian law, Tibetans in India are not recognized as refugees. The Indian “RC”, the official document provided to Tibetans, is a “Registration Card” not a “Refugee Card. New refugees live in fear of Indian authorities, and are particularly vulnerable to brokers, traffickers and Chinese agents. The status of “foreigner” constrains Tibetans in innumerable ways. When Chinese officials visit India, Tibetans who stage demonstrations are arrested as foreigners, who do not have the right to protest, whereas Indian citizens have full rights of expression and assembly. When Tibetan students trained in law, journalism, computer sciences graduate, their RC status prevents them from getting jobs for which they are qualified, or enrolling in post-graduate study programs, so years of hard work in Tibetan and Indian schools goes to waste. Persons with an RC card cannot own property; an Indian citizen must register Tibetan businesses. (The recent controversy over the Karmapa’s finances exposed this dangerous fault line in international headlines). If the status of India-born, assimilated Tibetans with RCs is tenuous, the state of newly arrived refugees from Tibet is worse. It is difficult to confirm the number of undocumented “new arrivals” in exile, but UNHCR statistics indicate that at least 30,000 persons born in Tibet escaped into India and Nepal since the 1980’s. Some studies put the number as high as 60,000, in that not all “new arrivals” register with UNHCR. Many in India apply for RC’s through the CTA, but not all applicants receive a “yellow book”.

Capture  (19)

By neglecting the crisis of statelessness, the CTA leaves the majority of its 100,000 constituents in India vulnerable to the most corrupt elements of society. Thousands have been caught in the net of visa brokers, who profit handsomely off the hopes of desperate people, and naturally do want to see a change. Said a Tibetan journalist from Darjeeling; “People aren’t getting any help from their government, so the only option is to go to the black market, which is a dangerous gamble. .”Visa brokers typically charge 10 to 15 lakhs of Indian rupees, equal to 40 to 60 thousand USD. There are several large rings operating in Asia, Europe and the US, raking in big money, without impediment or penalty. This is a typical example of what the UNHCR describes as “Protracted Refugee syndrome.” which creates various unhealthy and illegal practices among refugees; violating the laws of the land they live in, obtaining false ID cards, citizenship, travel documents or passports and even birth certificates with unscrupulous officials or their middle men. The UNHCR also said that years of being in exile as stateless persons without any hope for a better future causes frustration and desperation among youths, who then take to drugs and alcohol, prostitution and robbery.”

I have seen too many lives broken in the quest for the west. I know many individuals who entered the USA via brokers on a standard 6 month tourist visa, which they let lapse without any advice on what to do next. The brokers refused to help them get papers, threatening to deport them back to Asia, leaving them stranded as illegal aliens, separated from their fathers, mothers, and often children. Many Tibetans with university degrees from India work as waiters and nannies in New York City, underpaid, overworked and oftentimes abused by their employers, but trapped, because they are illegal aliens and they do not know where to turn to get sound advice on how to get citizenship. The crisis of statelessness contributes to the decay of law and order, the proliferation of black marketeers, con men and Chinese agents, who exploit the fragility and weakness of the Tibetan exiles’ status.

Returning to “a genuinely independent, or autonomous, Tibet” any time soon is improbable to say the least. Does Mr. Sangay have a back up plan for the thousands of men, women and children trapped in a decaying camp system scattered across the Indian subcontinent, shackled to refugee status? In an era where there is less room and tolerance for refugees in all of South Asia, what is the long-term strategy for survival into the 21st century of the largest and most important Tibetan population in exile?’ (10)

Maura Moynihan, daughter of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who has been a longtime supporter and activist for the Tibet cause agrees that Tibetans are not getting the support they need to integrate into the societies they live in: ‘But ICT (International Campaign for Tibet) is not addressing the crisis of statelessness that is overwhelming Tibetans in exile. Refugees are especially vulnerable to exploitation, bribery and coercion, and Tibetans are no exception. I have interviewed many Tibetans in New York City, trapped in an illegal alien underground, desperate to escape refugee status in India or Nepal. Illegal passport rings operating from India, trafficking Tibetans to the United States, and the proliferation of fake asylum claims have harmed the reputation of Tibetans with American officials. In 2005 the “Fake Nun” scandal erupted, when Sonam Chodon, a Tibetan from Nepal, claimed that she was a Buddhist nun fleeing persecution in China, became a media sensation and was granted asylum, but was later charged with using a fake passport and lying to authorities. A U.S. diplomat told me: “There is a lot of sympathy for the Tibetan people, but in the past two decades so many have come to the U.S. on tourist or student visas then immediately claimed asylum, used fake papers, broken the rules in other ways. There is a clear lack of leadership.”

The impact on the refugee community of their lack of legal citizenship is investigated by the Tibet Justice Centre: ‘There have been notable changes in circumstances facing Tibetans in India since the publication of TJC’s 2011 report, some of which contribute to and exacerbate the insecurity and vulnerability of Tibetans as described in our earlier report. The most disturbing findings from our recent research is that 1) Tibetans without a valid “Indian Registration Certificate for Tibetans” (RC) have been arrested, fined, imprisoned and threatened with deportation and, in some cases, actually deported and 2) there have been a number of attempts to forcibly evict Tibetan communities that have lived on the land for decades. Also notable is the fact that although two High Courts have rendered decisions holding that Tibetans born between 1950 and 1987 are citizens of India, Tibetans born between those years remain unable to secure citizenship.’ (25)


Factors affecting the unemployment rate in the exile community

Of course the factors influencing the high levels of unemployment in the exile community are complex, these are some of them:

  1. Tibetan exiles in India are registered as foreigners and therefore do not have access to the same job opportunities as Indian citizens.
  2. In the settlements a farming system, ‘which uses excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides was introduced and encouraged resulting in rapid depletion of ground water and loss of soil fertility. Unsuccessful breeding and raising of hybrid livestock and non-adaptation of rural enterprises to the changing times had badly affected the three initial means of livelihood in the settlements, viz. agriculture, animal husbandry and industry.’ (7)
  3. Language difficulties: these are twofold:
  • The Tibetans arriving in India do not speak the local dialect or English.
  • Tibetan children were, until fairly recently, educated in English in the TCV schools, with Tibetan spoken at home, consequently they often graduated with poor Tibetan and English skills. The CTA have now moved to educating the children in Tibetan at school, which will help them educationally but still leaves the necessity for them to learn local dialects and English. ‘Tashi, who asked to be identified by only one name to protect his family back in Tibet, still speaks just Tibetan and some Chinese. He had never been to school in Tibet, and in Dharamsala, he says, “I only managed to study for two years … I struggled with languages. And now, since I don’t know Hindi or English, I can’t find a job.”’ (6)
  1. Lack of technical knowledge, the emphasis in the exile community has been on academic education and not vocational training.
  2. Parental lack of knowledge about current employment opportunities means they are often not able to give practical career guidance to their children. ‘Family influence does not dictate negative results, but many career counsellors find compromising with a parent’s ideas to be difficult, especially if said parent has had little to no work experience in the modern job market.’ (2)
  3. ‘Tibetans in the past had no job market mentality, and so career counselling or counselling in general remains a completely foreign concept.’ (2)
  4. Geographical isolation. ‘Young Tibetans living on rural settlements or in hill towns in the Indian Himalayas can feel cut off from jobs in big cities such as Delhi or Mumbai.’ (8)
  5. Lack of confidence. ‘Others lack confidence in India’s competitive environment for work and education.’ (8)
  6. Some in the exile community suggest that the younger generation are not independent enough. ‘ Choedon of the Tibetan Career Center in Dharamsala says young Tibetans sometimes want too much hand-holding, for example when they expect counsellors to arrange housing for them after getting a job or internship. ”At times it feels like we are spoon-feeding them,” she says. ”One has to give them a constant push.” The reasons for the need for hand-holding could be, ‘“Young Tibetans often battle a sense of dislocation and face immense practical difficulties in finding jobs and becoming self-reliant,” says Kate Saunders, communications director at the International Campaign for Tibet.’ (8) ‘In the psyche of the second and third generation Tibetans, there is no real sense of permanence. There is always a vague feeling of inertia, a longing to go back to a country they have never seen.’ (17)

Conditions are for Tibetan refugees in Nepal are very similar; ‘Though most of the 20,000 Tibetans in Nepal today were born here, they do not have citizenship and are officially stateless. Besides not being allowed to own property, this also makes obtaining any document—from a driving license to a work permit or a travel visa—extremely difficult by legal means.’ (29)

Suppression of Labour

With the tragic circumstances of Tibetans arriving as traumatised refugees in a foreign country, along with the other social and economic factors affecting their search for suitable livelihoods, it is true to say the Dalai Lama and Parliament in Exile faced a gargantuan task of supporting the community to become economically sound.  It is understandable that there were decisions made that proved to be unhelpful and lessons have been learned; such as the decision to educate the children in English and the farming techniques that have stripped the land bare. However, a number of studies into the employment situation in the exile community have revealed shocking statistics that clearly indicate there must be other factors at play: such as the 2009 survey by Technoserve, a US nonprofit advising the larger project, which is funded by the US Agency for International Development, that indicated as much as 22% of Tibetan youth in India are unemployed, compared with about 10% of young Indians.

The Central Tibetan Administration publicly states it is responding to the dire problem and has set up some strategies to apparently try and improve the situation. As the CTA is heavily reliant on foreign aid, particularly from the U.S Congress, and international fund-raising, it has to be seen to be acting in a ‘democratic,’ and caring fashion. However on investigation it is clear that in reality the Dalai Lama and the CTA have a number of policies that work against any attempts to improve the employment situation of the people within the exile community. Instead their policies actually have the effect of suppressing employment opportunities for Tibetans in exile:

Not facilitating Growth of business in the exile community

The Dalai Lama and CTA policies far from encouraging economic growth rather seem to hamper and impede it;

  1. ‘There is no functioning economic sector in exile, the CTA is unable (or perhaps unwilling) to create sufficient job opportunities for young graduated Tibetans and other specialists. Thondup Tsering stated that there is: absolutely no link between supply of human resources by the educational institutions with the actual requirements of the Tibetan community both quantitatively and qualitatively. Nobody seems to be working towards ensuring some reasonable parity between the supply and the demand.’ (15)
  1. Complicated, bureaucratic red tape that slows down or prevents new businesses being established. ‘Tsewang Rigzin says growth of modern enterprises is vital for sustaining the Tibetan community in India but finds that it is beset with legal, procedural and bureaucratic hurdles that need to be  addressed with urgency.’ (11) ‘Another important finding suggested by this study is that there are various barriers that impede the growth of the entrepreneurial sector; all the concerned stakeholders need to make efforts to eliminate these barriers. One of the biggest challenges facing Tibetan entrepreneurs across the categories pertains to government trade rules and regulations or the lack of proper registration and licenses. This problem is more prevalent among the enterprises that are operating in the settlements. Without these documents and licenses, further enterprise growth is impossible despite the fact that the entrepreneurs have the capacity to do so.’(12) ‘Little of the business undertakings by Tibetan Government in Nepal too have to be shut down in recent years due to change in its policies. The TGIE’s petty loan scheme to unemployed Tibetans could not be implemented so far in Nepal due to technical difficulties.’ (13) ‘Prior to this study, I had assumed that Tibetans did not register their enterprises intentionally to avoid tax and other legal obligations. But I found this to be untrue during my study. Interacting with around 100 Tibetan entrepreneurs, I learnt that although desiring to register their businesses Tibetans are unable to obtain these licenses due to various reasons.  One of the primary reasons is the ignorance about the procedure and its complexity and unduly long duration. It is therefore suggested that the concerned stakeholders, especially the CTA, appoint a special officer under the office of entrepreneur development desk of the Department of Finance. The primary responsibility of this officer should be to support established as well as potential entrepreneurs in legal matters, such as the registration of their enterprises and obtaining licenses for the operation of their trade.  This officer should further train the entrepreneurs on various legal issues pertaining to small and medium enterprises in India.’ (12)
  1. Refusing to invest enough money in schemes that would allow individuals to develop new businesses. ‘It is interesting to find that almost all of these unemployed youth (92%) have thought of starting some self enterprises at one or other point of time. Apart from that it was also found that majority of these unemployed youth (40%) would choose to do something related to business activities if they are provided with a choice. But it is clear from this study that they faces different kind of obstacles, i.e. Lack of financial support, Lack of family support and lack of technical know-how. It was revealed that majority faces financial obstacles. In the past, steps were taken by Exile Tibetan Government to provide micro enterprise loans and financial aids to those who have interest in starting business. The need for continuation of this programme seems necessary.’ (12)

Lack of vocational training in the exile community

The Dalai Lama has made education for Tibetans in the exile community a priority. This is understandable as education is paramount in helping individuals and communities to build a successful future; but it seems there has been too much emphasis on academic achievement, at the cost of developing long term economic stability. ‘The Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) now runs dozens of schools and has educated over 15,000 children. Until recently, however, no attention has been paid to children after the completion of their education. Since the founding of Tibetan settlements, education has been strongly emphasized, but economic growth was never mentioned.’ (2) “I know many people without jobs,” says Theton Jigme, 31, an employee with the Central Tibetan Administration who found his present job three years after completing an undergraduate degree at a university in Chandigarh. “We have some 1,250 Tibetan students graduating each year, but we can only provide government jobs to 5% of them.” (7) ‘The lack of employment opportunities within Tibetan communities in exile remain although schooling is improving tremendously, leaving educated Tibetans with nowhere to work within their community. The general consensus among educators is that these people should expand their job searches, accepting the possibility that they might have to leave a Tibetan settlement to find steady employment.’

‘Efforts are underway to provide more employment opportunities within the community, but the majority of these new avenues are for uneducated, extremely poor Tibetans. Now dozens of handicraft centers exist, teaching Thanka painting and tailoring in places such as the Tibetan Transit School for new arrivals from Tibet and the Mussorrie Homes School. Generally, these schools are not meant for Tibetans with artistic talent or who wish to pursue art out of passion; rather, the schools are meant students who are “bad in studies.” Likewise The Tibetan Handicraft Society (THS) trains individuals in producing handicrafts but also employs them after the training. THS is meant to aid the destitute, people who have no other options or assistance. Unlike some other vocational training centers, the Tibetan Handicraft Society does not require its applicants to have passed up to a certain class level; rather they choose employees based on need.’ (12)

‘Vocational training in Tibetan communities has never been encouraged for youths. Academic pursuits prevail in popularity, but vocational schools seem more practical for life in exile in many ways. (2) Perhaps the lack of vocational training available, for all but the uneducated and extremely poor is to ensure Tibetans are have no easy escape route from the Gilded Cage of the exile community? ‘If a Tibetan wishes to move to a Western country, the best way to do this is through having a concrete, technical and marketable skill such as nursing or massage. Technical careers provide more stability, after all people will always need plumbers, but translators are somewhat of a luxury. Still vocational training remains slightly stigmatized in Tibetan communities.” Opportunities for vocational training are not limited, yet many people still remain uninterested despite high unemployment rates. Tenzin Pao, the director of Selakui VTC, envisions vocational training increasing in popularity and a reversal of the stigmatization of technical trades. Significantly Tsewang Rigzin, who conducted the study, “Survey Research on Tibetan Entrepreneurs in India,” in association with the Federation of Tibetan Cooperatives in India, identifies the Dalai Lama’s generation as being responsible for the current lack of engagement and opportunities for vocational training; ‘Dismissal of technical trades is a social construct kept alive by traditional elders. Donkar Wangmo wishes to remind conservative parents that “everything is new here; we cannot continue along our old paths.” Perhaps the trend is slowly shifting, and vocational training will proliferate providing skill training and more jobs for Tibetan youth. As far as this study is concerned, one major causes of this problem is lack of proper professional education or skill. Thus the policies should be laid down by which it encourages more professional or skilled based education rather than theoretical or general education.’ (12)

Relinquishing all personal goals to serve the community

The Dalai Lama and CTA promote, through propaganda style repetition from early childhood, the message that exile Tibetans must dedicate their lives to serving their community. This service comes in the form of individuals sacrificing any personal ambition in favour of total commitment to preserving the exile Tibetan community. ‘From a young age these beliefs were constantly repeated, expressing the importance of serving the Tibetan community.’ (14) This social programming is having a profoundly negative effect on the employment situation in the exile community. This is clearly explained by Rebecca Arnold in her ‘Independent Study Paper, Tibetan Studies Program, August 2009.’ (2) ‘Communal ties form the net on which Tibetan culture rests, and this strong sense of community can be felt in the education and career placement systems. A stated goal of the Department of Education remains “to address the human resource requirement of the Tibetan community in exile and a future free Tibet.” Emphasis is placed on individuals’ ability and importance but only within the greater scheme of the Tibetan community. Children are taught to ask themselves: “What can I do for my nation? And how can I give back to the Tibetan community?” This altruistic attitude makes them good Buddhists but it does not encourage entrepreneurship. Recent IBD- Sarah graduates lamented over the same problems. Since the Department of Education pays for their training and provides a small amount of pocket money, graduates of IBD-Sarah’s teacher training program are expected to donate at least two years to the Department of Education after the completion of their course, before they can pursue other careers. Ani Delek Palmo was placed at TCV Selakui near Derhadun, but wishes she could stay near her nunnery outside of Dharamsala, and, Namdol will be working at the Tibetan Transit School rather than in Shimla, where her family lives.

Tibetans are educated for the purpose of providing for their community, and most express a strong desire to benefit the greater Tibetan people. However, economic growth has been stagnant in Tibetan communities in exile, while the number of Tibetans with Masters and Bachelors Degrees increase, the number of available jobs remains the same. The exile community’s infrastructure and services have obviously not kept up with the increase of educated youths. The tension between wanting to remain in a Tibetan community and limited opportunities within the community has left many recent graduates lost. Sonam Dhakpa laments this trend, stating that “there is no place for business in Tibetan communities,” and thus students should be open to the possibility to living elsewhere. The trend, as acknowledged by various career counsellors and teachers, is a hesitancy to work in non-Tibetan areas of India or even communities other than Dharamsala. Upon arrival in India, Tibetans clearly differentiated themselves from local populations in an effort to preserve their culture. Due to their position within a different, greater community, Tibetans in exile must clearly maintain their culture as separate from all others, to prevent assimilation. This method has worked in that Tibetan culture continues to survive, but it causes negative, unexpected by-products, one being an overarching hesitance for unemployed Tibetans to live in regions of India without Tibetan communities.

Tenzin Tephun Shastri, a reporter and reformer of Tibetan society in exile, calls for a change of attitude and approach to the unemployment problem in Tibetan communities in exile. He disagrees with the Department of Education’s focus on preserving Tibetan culture stating, “a people’s obsession with religious and cultural heritage should not get in the way of achieving economic development.” He examines the parameters of potential and realized achievements of Tibetans in exile, acknowledging a great deal of cultural, social and religious achievements but a stagnation of human resources and a lack of any large scale economic achievement. Since Tibetan leaders did not address economic progress at the start of exile, the problem has expanded. Instead, the Tibetan Government in Exile focused on educating the youth, who now have a strong desire to help their community, yet few avenues for doing so. (2)

That it is the intention of the CTA to maintain pressure on Tibetans in the exile community to focus their employment ambition on serving their community is obvious in the statements made in their ‘Integrated Development Plan 1V, 2009-2013 (7):’ ‘The purpose of the Tibetans in exile is two-fold: to seek justice for our homeland and to preserve our unique identity as a Tibetan people. Given this scenario, it becomes all the more important for the Tibetans to preserve their unique identity and culture. We believe that the first purpose is dependent on many external factors including international situation, political changes within China, etc. that are beyond our control, however, the pursuit of the second purpose is totally within our limits, something which could be fulfilled by every Tibetans in exile, irrespective of gender, age and education, whether lay or ecclesiastic.’

This ‘second purpose’ of preserving the unique identity of the Tibetan people sets the agenda for the CTA’s economic policy, that is to promote employment within the refugee settlements only: ‘Why Tibetan settlements need to be made viable? The Tibetan refugee settlements were set up primarily to preserve the unique Tibetan culture and traditions by providing a modest self-supporting livelihood based on agriculture and handicrafts. Over the years, the settlements have experienced an unprecedented out-migration of able-bodied persons, thus threatening the very survival and the purpose of the settlements. In view of this, making settlements viable assumes the first developmental priority. This involves supporting settlements to restructure their agricultural methods and revitalize their rural co-operative societies while making sure that the local democratic institutions are strengthened and made accountable.

Why should we strengthen our institutions? Secular and non-secular institutions that uphold unique Tibetan polity, culture and traditions need to be strengthened for achieving individual and collective aspirations. Strengthening public institutions along with Tibetan civil society is a priority in the Fourth Integrated Development Plan of the Tibetan community in exile. Institutions – secular and non-secular – can be both formal and informal in nature. These institutions have the potentials to promote and provide essential characters mainly through education, to develop individual and collective capacities to sustain the communities while inculcating within individuals values such as truth-seeking, non-violence and compassion – core of the Tibetan identity and development pursuits. Over the years, the lack of focus has led to a situation where we are faced with declining effectiveness of public institutions resulting in the loss of public trust. This situation needs to be overcome. Under the Fourth Plan period, we are committed to eradicating poverty through the development activities, where every development project should have a design to empower this marginalized section of the society by securing them land title/rights, soft loans and life-skills training.’

So it seems that the CTA, who only act in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s wishes, have an economic policy that is entirely insular, there is to be no encouragement for Tibetans to find employment outside of the settlements.  It should at this point be noted that, ‘strengthening public institutions’ and making sure ‘local democratic institutions are strengthened and made accountable,’ leads ultimately to a strengthening of the CTA’s own position and power. ‘in this regard, the CTA fosters its own status in enforcing a Tibetan identity.’ (10) If Tibetans leave the exile community, they also leave the tight controlling grip of the CTA’s theocratic dictatorship. Whilst it is important that Tibetans in exile are encouraged to maintain their unique culture and loyalty to their homeland; the many thousands of Tibetans, living outside of the refugee settlements, will testify it is possible to do this without remaining trapped in the poverty, created by the insular, self-serving policies of the CTA.

With the intention of strengthening the Tibetan settlements, thereby bolstering their own position as the current head of these settlements, the CTA has pumped money into trying to rescue the system of rural co-operatives. This is despite the fact the CTA acknowledge this system has failed to support the exile community’s economy: ‘Many Tibetan Co-operatives still form the socio-economic backbone of agricultural settlements by becoming an effective guard against commercialization of public interests. However, in spite of its remarkable achievements, the Tibetan cooperatives in general have been largely ineffectual in translating its vision into reality. Lack of organizational skills, the major shift in occupational structure of the members over the last few decades and weakened primary activities, Tibetan cooperatives have lost their active support from its membership wherein many of the cooperatives are not in a position to provide required and relevant social and economic services to its members. To improve this situation, CTA has invested huge resources during the last plan period to revitalize the primary sector where the active role of the cooperatives is once again becoming need of the hour and pivotal to serve its members especially marginal farmers. In the era of globalization and rising food insecurity, the cooperatives have not only not lost their relevance but still have many competitive and cost advantages over other forms of organizations by dint of its a unique purpose or philosophical foundation.’

As a response to those that may rightly question the ‘huge resources’ that are being pumped into the now irrelevant co-operative structure, the CTA pitches the suggestion that anyone not wishing to support this programme is being somehow selfish, ‘driven by wants.’ In doing so the CTA reveal what is likely to be the main driver behind their economic policies, maintaining control: ‘The current trends of changing aspirations and increasing demands/consumerist behaviour tend to increase our dependence on external factors over which we have very little control. We would like to initiate a development strategy that draws largely on our own resources and knowledge to fulfil the needs of the people to live a contented life by challenging the ones that are driven by wants.’ What we see here is a government clearly following an economic policy that restricts ambition and personal drive, in favour of government controlled co-operatives. One does not have to go too far back in history to find other examples of dictators favouring cooperative farming methods.

collective 1

It is difficult to ascertain what are the economic and political aims of the CTA in developing the cooperative farms. The speech, by senior members of the CTA, at the Federation of cooperatives Tenth anniversary, in April of this year, came close to acknowledging this is a socialist enterprise; but how would the capitalist United States, who pump millions of dollars into the exile Tibetan community, feel about this; and how would Tibetans oppressed by the communist PRC feel about having a socialist system? With this in mind the CTA’s speech swerves between capitalism and socialism to land on the phrase, ‘Economic democracy,’ a manipulation of words reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal farm, doublespeak: ‘Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the chief guest of the event, paid his heartiest congratulations to the FTCI members on its 10 anniversary and appreciated in ability to produce profit in the recent years. He reiterated the need to take responsibility in overall development of the country other than its concept of ‘Economic Democracy’. “Ideologically, there is capitalist economy and socialist economy, while in capitalist, the capital is owned by private, in socialist, state is in ownership of capital. However, ideology of cooperatives is based on economic democracy,” Sikyong added. Speaker Penpa Tsering stressed the need of properly utilizing staff of FTCI to achieve ultimate efficiency. He further added that the success of the co-operative should not be based only for the public but for the stability of the settlement in general as well.’ (18)


Not allowing exile Tibetans to become citizens of India

The Dalai Lama and CTA have taken the position that Tibetans in India should remain refugees apparently so they are ready to return to an independent or autonomous Tibet. Accordingly they say that Tibetans should not relinquish their national identity to show loyalty as Tibetans. The Dalai Lama and CTA actively discourage Tibetans giving up their refugee status in the following ways:

In October 2014 the Indian Government passed the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy to try and overcome some of the difficulties Tibetans were experiencing as refugees in India (22): ‘This guideline has made a clear policy statement about the welfare of the Tibetans in India. Matter concerning land lease, extending Central and States benefits, are also specified. Policy guideline has also made clear policy statement that Tibetans may be allowed to undertake any economic activity and to that extent, relevant papers/trade license/permit may be issued to them. It also says that Tibetan Refugees may also be permitted to pursue/take jobs in any field for which they are professionally qualified. These could be fields like nursing, teaching, Chartered Accountancy, medicine, engineering etc. This policy guideline shall be send to all the States concerned, and the Tibetan Settlement officers shall also have a copy. The guideline is significant since the government of India has tried to set a uniform policy in all the States in dealing with the rehabilitation and welfare of the Tibetan refugees in India.’ (20)

However critics of the CTA are accusing the administration of withholding the legislation: ‘BJP govt. has passed new Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy 2014 but it remained in the book-shelf of CTA and has not published or distributed to the common people as CTA promised to do so by 2015!…It is shame to call CTA a representative of Tibetan exile that they took more than one year to translate the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy and still its not distribute to the public.!! Sikyong supporters say that above policy will soon be implemented by the states, has already opened a way to legalize Tibetan ownership of settlement land, including those grouped under scattered communities. But the question is when? Why is delayed so long?’ (21) Even a month after the India Government passed the Act the details had not even been released to the exile community: ‘The policy — that is yet to be made public — was shared with the Central Tibetan Administration — the Tibetan government in exile the runs out of Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala — last month.’ (23) Indeed some Tibetans feel that even when the Act has been implemented it will not ease the insecure position of the Tibetans in India: ‘But given the fact that their rather odd status is that of refugees staying temporarily in India on Humanitarian considerations despite having lived in the country since 1959 or being raised in it since birth through generations, knowing no other homeland but only a distant dream of an independent or autonomous Tibet, the sense of alienation and vulnerability arising from lack of a normal legal status among the mainstream generations of Tibetans remain. It is only to be expected that they will therefore continue to seek to emigrate to the West to address these concerns of fundamental importance and relevance to their sense of being.’ (24)

Accusations of disloyalty to the Tibetan cause:  “I was often told by senior people in Dharamshala that if we all accept Indian citizenship then people in Tibet will be discouraged because they will then believe that we have all become Indians. By this logic, the Tibetans in Tibet would have by now lost faith in the Tibetans in west who are citizens of respective countries. The same logic was applied when Bhutan decreed that Tibetans take Bhutanese citizens since we all belong to the same religion, culture and race, and Dharamshala advised against it. Those who defied Dharamshala and became the citizens of Bhutan are doing well today and are good Tibetans too.” (10)

Withholding No Objection certificates: Tibetans in exile can apply to the Government of India to acquire citizenship by birth, but first they must obtain a “no objection” certificate from the CTA. Many Tibetans view this as a serious obstacle, reporting that the CTA is reluctant to issue the certificates. CTA officials discourage any applications with the suggestions that it shows disloyalty to the Tibetan cause.

Threat of losing benefits: ‘CTA officials work against people applying for Indian citizenship by frequently stating that Tibetans should remain refugees to keep their “benefits”, which in reality consist of meagre funds for small projects, supported by a shrinking pool of donors. (After the 2008 Lhasa Uprising, China has put extreme pressure on foundations and NGO’s that assist Tibetans in exile, and many have cancelled their projects). The value of these slender “benefits” is far less than those conferred by citizenship.’ (10)

Opposing Legal right to citizenship by birth: On December 22, 2010, the High Court of Delhi decided a landmark case: Namgyal Dolkar v. Ministry of External Affairs. The TJC states the case “could alter the status quo for Tibetans who qualify under the prima facie terms of the Citizenship Act. Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, an ethnic Tibetan born in April 1986, in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India, argued that she qualified as an Indian citizen by birth. After 3 years, she won her claim in a judgment by the High Court of Delhi: ‘every person born in India on or after the 26th January 1950 but before the 1st day of July 1987’ shall be a citizen of India by birth.’ The Court held, that is, that Tibetans born in India, regardless of their parentage, during the aforementioned period enjoy birthright citizenship comparable to that guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”The Times of India wrote, “More than 35,000 Tibetans, born between 1956 and 1987, could benefit from this decision.” The verdict in Ms. Lhagyari’s lawsuit encouraged Tibetans to apply for Indian citizenship, but many report that they were told that the Lhagyari case did not establish a legal precedent; each individual must launch their own long and costly court case. Former Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche publically denounced Namgyal Lhagyari’s quest for an Indian passport, on the grounds that Tibetans in India should remain as refugees for symbolic purposes if nothing else.’ (10)

Not working with other countries to organise effective resettlement programmes: ‘It is painfully obvious that the “quest for the west” has not been managed as well as it could have. If the solution is implementing legal resettlement programs, Tibetans in the west should commence dialogues with their respective governments at once. Resettlement programs require lengthy and complex negotiations, the first and only US Tibetan resettlement project was launched in 1990, a 2nd will require passing congressional legislation, the full cooperation of the Indian government, selecting and approving candidates, which could take years.’ (10)

Through these methods and the constant flow of propaganda influencing Tibetans to put the exile community first, the Dalai Lama and CTA trap Tibetans in a gilded cage of guilt and bureaucracy. Trapping the Tibetans ensures the Dalai Lama and CTA’s continued position of power and wealth, at the cost of the economic and emotional well-being of the people they are supposed to serve.

Manipulating the education system

For higher education and specialised training, every exile Tibetan can apply for scholarships either to Indian authorities or the CTA. The procedure of sorting out the hundreds of applicants is handled carefully, especially in cases of a scholarship abroad…The CTA links a scholarship to a binding commitment to support the exile Tibetan struggle. After finishing the training, the recipient of the scholarship has the obligation to serve, for a limited period of time, in the exile administrative structure. Consequently, the scholarship program provides a key factor for the CTA’S efforts to secure the exile Tibetan’s loyalty in the educational course.’ This method of ensuring commitment to the exile community is not very successful as 20% subsequently refuse to return to the community. These Tibetans are accused of acting out of self-interest and of disloyalty to the Tibetan cause, even though there may not be suitable jobs available to these students if they did return to the community.

There are scholarships available on application to the Indian government also, however if Tibetans arrived after 1962 they must apply for admissions , which makes the entrance for higher exams more difficult. ‘Otherwise an exile Tibetan needs to take Indian citizenship. But this is actively discouraged by the CTA. There is an expected acceleration of losing Tibetan identity …this would undermine the CTA struggle to preserve Tibetan religion and culture and limit the exile Tibetan loyalty to the CTA. Consequently, the young exile Tibetan ambitions’ to study and improve their education are in contrast with CTA politics. With the taking of Indian citizenship, the Tibetan youth automatically opposes the official exile political course. So they have the choice either to follow the CTA course and remain as non-Indian citizens or apply for Indian citizenship to have a chance to proceed with a higher education.

So with the incentives of a free primary education in exile and a secondary education with Western sponsorship, the CTA fosters its superior position and the loyalty of the students who are thankful for the educational opportunities… Crucial factors in securing loyalty are the scholarship and sponsorship programmes of the CTA, which foster the CTA position through the monopoly on financial resources and access to international universities. Only those who are bright, officially active in supporting the official CTA policy and pay the voluntary contribution to the CTA annually benefit from grants and the allowance to study and universities abroad and in India. (15)

Hypocrisy of the Exile Government

The following extracts illustrate the double standards of the CTA who have access to the freedom that they deny many exile Tibetans:

‘After 53 years, Tibetans in exile want, and need, citizenship. They look to those who have done so and have prospered. At least three Kalons have citizenship; Dicki Chhoyang (Int. Affairs) is Canadian, Pema Chhinjor (Religion and Culture) is American, Dolma Gyari (Home) is Indian. Many CTA official of previous administrations also have citizenship. After years of residing in the US, Mr. Sangay is minimally in possession of a green card, if not already a passport. If CTA officials enjoy the privileges of citizenship, should they not actively support plans to get it for everyone else? …CTA officials have many opportunities to acquire citizenship abroad; as representatives of HH Dalai Lama, they can easily obtain visas to western countries. When posted overseas they are then able to commence legal procedures to get citizenship for themselves and their relatives. Given the limitations of remaining stateless nationals in India, it is obvious why those who are able to immigrate do so…Tibetans stranded in legal limbo in India repeatedly ask why they must endure permanent refugee status when CTA officials have citizenship. Mr. Sangay always speaks of his impoverished childhood in a Tibetan settlement in India, and his great fortune in winning a Fulbright scholarship to Harvard, which enabled his family to immigrate to the USA. He studied law, so presumably his administration is equipped to research rules and regulations governing immigration and re-settlement to the west, and Indian citizenship for eligible candidates.’ (10)

A Positive Development

An article on the Phayul website by Tsewang Namgyal, February 2016, describes a promising strategy to address some of the problems affecting the refugee communities in India. Namgyal describes a regeneration project for Doeguling settlement: ‘Home to over 17,000 Tibetans – half of whom are monks and nuns – Doeguling is the largest settlement of Tibetan refugees in India. Under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Central Tibetan Administration (“CTA”) and the Indian government, Doeguling has been successful to preserve these precious cultural assets that has over a millennia of wisdom and spiritual practices dedicated to discovering the true nature of self, reality, and happiness. And yet, Doeguling today struggles to meet the challenges of economic development. Best young minds leaving the Doeguling for better jobs in urban India or abroad. Bad infrastructure make travel into and out of the settlement difficult. Erratic power and water supply disrupt daily commerce and make day-to-day life challenging for the majority farming community. Unless you want to become a monk or nun, there are few livelihood opportunities for young people who are now leaving the settlement to work in larger neighboring cities, such as Bangalore or abroad.’ As a response to this problem Namgyal set up the Reimagining Doeguling Tibetan Settlement (“RDTS”) project:’The team’s strategy is to (i) organize the community and supporters over a common mission and vision, (ii) build out the infrastructure by aligning interest with the state and central government, (iii) tie up existing local attractions such as monasteries, nunnery, settlements, handicraft center, Tibetan medical clinic etc., (iv) unlock the community’s potential through creating business opportunities, (v) focus on revenue maximization (not visitor volume maximization) to reduce environmental and social pressure, (vi) leverage on neighboring tourist sites such as Hampi (UNESCO designated) to draw visitors, (vii) coordinate with state tourism ministry on how Doeguling can support Karnataka’s tourism plans, (viii) market and brand Doeguling as an education and cultural center (not a poor refugee community), (ix) work closely with CTA to get their support and guidance, and (x) develop a framework to attract outside investors.’

The project has backing from all relevant parties and should be a success, however there is some sense that the project is not getting all the support it deserves. ‘A number of new volunteers and supporters continue to join the RDTS effort. We have a game plan in place but naturally much of our success will depend on the policies and support of CTA and Karnataka State. Our control with the state government is difficult but with the CTA we have more control since they represent the Tibetan people.’ There is a sense that setting up the project is a bit of an uphill battle and that funding is tight. As Namgyal correctly points out  a project such as this will help to build independence in the settlements,  ‘It is clear that money is only part of the solution and this can be the cause of future problems if not used properly. If we assume that since 1959 the CTA received financial assistance from foreign governments, NGOs and individuals to the amount of US$10 million annually that would be approximately US$560 million for the last 56 years. The numbers are huge even in Western standards. Historically we also had rich patrons like the Mongols and Manchus that I believe only weakened the Tibetan community both politically and economically.
No doubt we need financial support but I believe this needs to back new ideas and structures with a finite path where we will not be dependent on charity. This thought process is foremost in my mind as I volunteer with RDTS. Personally I believe our full potential will be realized internally and externally when we unlock the value of the Nalanda tradition that our ancestors passed down to our generation by leveraging modern techniques and knowledge.’ (26)

Hopefully this project and others like it, will be given the full backing they deserve from those in authority.



The Motivation behind the suppression of labour

It would seem in the light of this evidence that the question is not whether the CTA, under the direction of the Dalai Lama, supresses Labour, the question is why does it suppress labour, when this policy results in such high levels of unemployment and social problems?

If exile Tibetans become Indian citizens, or leave the exile community to find work outside India, then the CTA would not have a community to govern. ‘A consequence of this policy (whether intentional or not) is the greater dependence of the refugees on the Dalai Lama’s government. Because as individual Tibetans are stateless guests of the GOI, their strength lies in their collectivity, and it is precisely the role of the Dalai Lama and the Dalai Lama Government to organise and represent that collectivity.’ (16) Without a strong labour force there can be no organised opposition to the CTA’s policies. If people have work they are empowered through the confidence, independence and financial power, they can work cohesively to oppose and undermine a government. By manipulating Tibetans to stay within the community, through propaganda which manipulates the exile Tibetans strong sense of Nationalism, but at the same time keeping the community weak through high levels of unemployment, poverty and social problems, it is easy for the Dalai Lama and CTA to maintain their dictatorial control.

Most governments encourage their citizens to work because they benefit from taxing the citizen’s wages. Crucially the Dalai Lama and CTA have access to another funding stream, donations from the West, all of this money flows directly to them. Consequently they can give money to Tibetans in exile thereby making the community dependent on them, as the people holding the purse strings. ‘That means that international aid runs exclusively through the CTA, which finally decides where the money is invested. Maria Dorsh Devoe argues in this context that loyalty to the CTA is an essential part and unwritten criteria for an aid recommendation. So if parts of the exile Tibetan community (whole settlement groups like the ’13 Settlements, schools like the Dorji School, or Shugden practitioners) or an individual do not fulfil the loyalty requests in the opinion of the CTA, they will be excluded from foreign aid. Ann Frechette wrote: Like many other exile organisations worldwide, the Dalai Lama’s exile administration uses control over economic resources to enforce its decision. Its access to economic resources (especially when the community are struggling with high levels of unemployment and poverty) derives from its position as middleman in the provision of international assistance. The Dalai Lama’s exile administration uses its middleman position to tax fellow exiles (thereby gaining access to additional economic resources) and to regulate schools, monasteries, businesses, health care centers, publishers and researchers. This in turn means that the CTA fosters its own political position within the Tibetan community through the monopoly on and exclusive access to international aid agencies.’ (For more on this subject go to Part Three: Corporate Power)


A possible solution?

‘There is a clear need for an independent Tibet Legal Aid Society to investigate rights and options with the Indian government and embassies in New Delhi. Tibet support groups in the west can lobby for resettlement and create legal defence funds to assist illegal aliens and asylum seekers. At this late date, Tibetans with citizenship can do more for the Tibetan cause than impoverished and powerless “foreigners” in New Delhi or illegal aliens in New York. If the structural crisis of statelessness is perpetuated and ignored, the exile base will be further weakened by a festering criminal underworld of human traffickers and Chinese agents, and if the exile base collapses, who will speak for Tibet? One winter afternoon, sharing tea and samosas in a Dharamshala garden, the poet and freedom fighter Lhasang Tsering stared into the golden light above the Kangra Valley and spoke; “We did not come into exile to become the world’s most successful refugees. We came to fight for our brothers and sisters in Tibet. We can never forget — that is what matters most.”’ (17)


  3. Current Situation of Tibetan Refugees in Exile. Tsering Paljor
  14. Tibetan Women and Higher Educational Experience: An Exploratory Study by Yeshi Chodon
  15. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile: Politics at Large Stephanie Römer

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