DHARAMSHALA: Tibetan poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue calls himself a warrior with a mission to free his country from Chinese occupation. He wears a red bandana that he says he will remove only when Tibet is free. But at the same time, he says, “I’m more of an Indian except for my Tibetan face.”
Ask him about Tibetans taking Indian citizenship and voting in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, the man wonders “how can foreigners vote in Indian elections? We have to go back to our country one day. At least I dream of dying in Tibet.”
In an interview with New Indian Express, Tenzin, whose stories and poems depict his love for Tibet, says now is the time for Tibetans to stand up for their motherland instead of taking Indian citizenship.
Excerpts from the interview:
Many Tibetans are applying for voter ID and Indian passports. Most of them will vote for the first time in the Assembly elections. How do you see this?
We are refugees here, people of a lost country. We are citizens of no nation. We are foreigners born in India. All those obtaining these documents are doing so thinking that their lives will become easier. But I have my Registration Certificate which I renew every year. I travel abroad on my identity certificate and I also have the Green Book given by the Tibetan government-in-exile. My life is equally good without an Indian passport or voter ID.
Holding on to our identity is crucial. I’m proud of my country. Now is the time to stand with Tibet. We did not come here to seek citizenship of a foreign country. I dream of dying in Tibet.
Is it not just a matter of convenience?
Where is the need for us to take part in Indian elections? We did not come to India to settle down. We hope to go back to our country. We have been doing well thus far and by taking Indian citizenship, the very purpose of coming into exile is lost. Moreover, people who are obtaining Indian passports are not even submitting their registration certificates which means that they are holding on to citizenship of both nations. How is this possible? There is a lot of confusion regarding this and I feel that lack of coordination between FRRO and the voter ID issuing authorities is the reason. Can all those who are now Indian citizens be able to go back to Tibet and become Tibetan citizens whenever things are better there?
Do Indian elections mean anything to you?
Absolutely nothing. Whichever party is in power, how does it matter to us? For us, it is the freedom struggle for our nation that is supreme.
You have written several books, poems which depict the struggle for free Tibet. Is China listening?
China's biggest fear is Tibetans. China is spread over 9.6 million square km, three times bigger than India. Of this 9.6 million square km, Tibet holds 2.5 million square km and we have been running the most active and determined freedom struggle in the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the key to China's stability. If Tibetans do something here, Tibetans inside Tibet will get active which could destablise China. We are with Dalai Lama.