Advertisement

Kashmir excludes descendants of Tibetan refugees from education, employment

By
Afsana Bhat, Global Press Institute

SRINAGAR, Kashmir (GPI)-- Zahid Bhat, 27, works in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, in his family’s traditional Tibetan hosiery business and in the “tilla” industry making Kashmiri embroidery. His livelihoods are a mixture of Tibetan and Kashmiri cultures – much like his life, as he is Tibetan but was born in Kashmir. More than 50 years ago, Bhat’s grandparents and parents fled Tibet, an autonomous region in southwestern China, after a failed uprising against Chinese occupation. They settled in a refugee colony in Eidgah, a neighborhood in Srinagar. “We are counted, possess voter identity cards and cast votes as well, but without any facilities.” Eshrat Ganaie, a Tibetan born in Kashmir Many Tibetan refugees still live in colonies in Srinagar, Bhat says. But the state government refuses to grant them permanent resident certificates, although they have lived in the state for more than 60 years or their whole lives. “We’ve been living here since 1959 but don’t enjoy the same rights as those of the natives of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bhat says. Under Kashmiri law, noncitizens face certain restrictions, including not being allowed to purchase land, work government jobs or attend state universities, says Shailendra Kumar, the divisional commissioner of Kashmir. Tibetans continue to live in Kashmir under refugee status, even if they were born in the state. China sent troops into Tibet in 1950, after an independent government had been leading the autonomous region for nearly 40 years. Many Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, fled the region after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. More than 42,000 refugees left Tibet in January 1960, according to the Central Tibetan Administration. More than 140 Tibetan families fled together from Tibet to Srinagar in 1960, Kumar says. There are now 6,000 Tibetans – roughly 1,200 families – living in three neighborhoods of Srinagar. “Tibetans are settled here at three places,” he says. “That is: Makhdoom Sahib, Badamwari and Eidgah.” The Jammu and Kashmir state government counts Tibetans in its census and allows them to vote, says Eshrat Ganaie, a Tibetan born in Kashmir. But because it will not grant them citizenship, they lack access to other basic rights. “We are counted, possess voter identity cards and cast votes as well,” she says, “but without any facilities.” Not being able to own land or property is the biggest challenge for Tibetans, says Aabida Parveen, a young Tibetan born in Kashmir. “Housing is a main problem,” she says. Tibetans living in Kashmir cannot purchase land or homes, Bhat says. “Even if we’ve resources, we can’t purchase land to construct a house, as we don’t possess state-subject certificates,” Bhat says. The Kashmiri government provided free housing for the Tibetan refugees after they started arriving in 1959, says Abdul Rahim, a Tibetan born in Kashmir. “After we came here, [the] government provided us the space,” he says. “Initially, we lived here in an old building. Later, a well-developed colony came up here.” Almost 35 families live in the government-allotted colony in Eidgah, Ganaie says. The government replaced an old housing structure 10 years ago and built their current colony, she says. Refugees pay only for electricity and water. “Each family has been provided with two bedrooms, a lobby, a kitchen and an attached bathroom,” Ganaie says. When families grow, they run out of room in the government-provided housing, she says. But the refugees and their descendants cannot buy their own property if they want more space. They can only rent. “Once the number of family members increases, space within the allotted flat shrinks, and they can’t all live together in an accommodation provided by the government,” Ganaie says. “As such, they move out to live on rented accommodation.” Refugees’ inability to obtain permanent resident certificates also hampers their economic growth because they cannot attend Kashmiri public universities or work government jobs, Bhat says. Tibetans cannot attend state universities, but they can apply to private universities or leave Kashmir to attend Indian universities, which do not require applicants to be citizens, Bhat says. Because of the state restrictions on education, the younger Tibetan generation in Kashmir usually studies only through high school, Parveen says. “After that, it becomes difficult to study for us,” Parveen says.

Advertisement

Read the rest of the story at GlobalPressInstitute.org
Advertisement

Latest Headlines