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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

Identity crisis

December 1, 2008

The Week (Malaysia)
December 7, 2008 edition

In Tibet they were known as khache [Kashmiri Muslims].  In Kashmir
they are called Tibetan Muslims. The small Muslim community that fled
Tibet after China's invasion in 1959 are in constant search of their
identity in Kashmir. "I don't like it when people call me Tibetan
Muslim. It sounds as if I don't belong," says Faiz Malik, whose
family fled Tibet in 1959, when he was a child.

After China occupied Tibet in 1959 the Muslim community approached
the Indian mission in Lhasa to claim Indian citizenship, citing their
Kashmiri ancestry. "The Indian government said that all Tibetan
Muslims were Indian nationals," says Faiz.

Faiz, along with other Tibetan Muslims who crossed over into India to
border towns in late 1959, gradually moved to Kashmir. Faiz has
relatives in Ladakh, which helped him prove that he belonged to the
place. He is former assistant director of the forest department in
J&K. "The people from our community don't have state subject
documents. This means though they have Indian citizenship they don't
have the same rights as the other citizens," says Faiz. Without the
state subject document, Tibetan Muslims have no right to higher
schooling, health care or property ownership. Nor can they apply for
government jobs.  The identity crisis that this community feels
persists even after 50 years. When families shifted from the Tibetan
colony at Eidgah to Hawal, they made it a point not to call it Tibetan colony.
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