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25-yr-old first Tibetan to be Indian citizen

January 24, 2011

Anand Bodh, TNN, Jan 20, 2011, 01.32am IST

CHANDIGARH: Thousands of Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1986
may have a reason to cheer. They can now become Indian citizens under
the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986. These Tibetans have 25-year-old
Namgyal Dolkar to thank, who although born in India was declined
citizenship and termed 'stateless'.

Dolkar became the first Tibetan to get Indian citizenship after Delhi
High Court ruled in her favour last month. ''I am a Tibetan at heart,
but now I am an Indian citizen. I believe one should be aware of one's
rights, and I got my rights due to my awareness,'' she told TOI.

Dolkar is no ordinary Tibetan. She is the oldest of four siblings who
claim descent from Tibet's 33rd King Songtsen Gampo, ruler of Tibet in
the 7th century. In June 2004, during a coronation ceremony presided
over by the Dalai Lama, her younger brother, Namgyal Wangchuk Trichen
Lhagyari, was ordained descendent of the first dharma King Songtsen Gampo.

Dolkar said she hoped her case would help others Tibetans struggling for
an identity in India. ''For one year, Dolkar's queries went unheard. We
sent a legal notice, but after it failed to get a response, we
approached the Delhi High Court,'' said Roxna S Swamy, Dolkar's lawyer.

''I found that Tibetans, who are eligible for citizenship as per the
amended 1986 Citizenship Act, were not aware of it,'' she said.
''According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986, any person born in
India on or after January 26, 1950, but prior to the commencement of the
1986 Act on July 1, 1987, is citizen of India by birth.''

Born in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, on April 13, 1986, and brought up in
Dehradun, Dolkar never thought her quest for national identity would
lead to a legal battle that would turn out to be a milestone for her
exiled community.

The battle began after she applied for an Indian passport in March 2008
in Delhi. The passport office rejected her application, saying her
parents were Tibetans. In response to her application, the passport
office wrote back on September 1, 2009 that the ministry of external
affairs had decided that she could not get a passport and be treated as
an Indian.

Dolkar then approached the high court. Justice S Muralidhar on December
22, ruled Dolkar was entitled to citizenship. The court had also ordered
MEA to pay her a compensation of Rs 5,000, and give her a passport
within two months.

Dolkar is no ordinary Tibetan. She is the oldest of four siblings who
claim descent from Tibet's 33rd King Songtsen Gampo, ruler of Tibet in
the 7th century. In June 2004, during a coronation ceremony presided
over by the Dalai Lama, her younger brother, Namgyal Wangchuk Trichen
Lhagyari, was ordained descendent of the first dharma King Songtsen Gampo.

Dolkar said she hoped her case would help others Tibetans struggling for
an identity in India. ''For one year, Dolkar's queries went unheard. We
sent a legal notice, but after it failed to get a response, we
approached the Delhi High Court,'' said Roxna S Swamy, Dolkar's lawyer.

''I found that Tibetans, who are eligible for citizenship as per the
amended 1986 Citizenship Act, were not aware of it,'' she said.
''According to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986, any person born in
India on or after January 26, 1950, but prior to the commencement of the
1986 Act on July 1, 1987, is citizen of India by birth.'' Born in HP and
brought up in Dehradun, Dolkar never thought her quest for national
identity would lead to a legal battle.
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