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Tibetan diaspora

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Title: Tibetan diaspora  
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Tibetan diaspora

The Tibetan diaspora is a term used to refer to the communities of Tibetan people living outside the People's Republic of China. Tibetan emigration happened in two waves: one in 1959 following the 14th Dalai Lama's self-exile in Dharamsala (India), and the other in the 1980s when Tibet was opened to trade and tourism. The third wave continues from 1996 to today. Not all emigration from Tibet is permanent; today some parents in Tibet send their children to communities in the diaspora to receive a traditional Tibetan education. The 2009 census registered about 128,000 Tibetans in exile, with the most numerous part of the community living in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.[1] However, in 2005 and 2009 there were estimates of up to 150,000 living in exile.

Origins and numbers

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) provides a Green Book - a kind of Tibetan identity certificate - to Tibetan refugees. Based on a CTA survey from 2009, 127,935 Tibetans were registered in the diaspora: in India 94,203; in Nepal 13,514; in Bhutan 1,298; and in rest of the world 18,920.[1] However, their number is estimated at up to 150,000, as mentioned by both Edward J. Mills et al. in 2005 and by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2009.[2][3]

The larger of the other communities are in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, France, Taiwan and Australia.[4]

First wave

During the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama and some of his government fled to India. From 1959 to 1960, about 80,000 Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama to India through the Himalayas.[5] Continued flights, estimated in the numbers of 1,000 to 2,500 a year, increased these numbers to 100,000.[6] The movement of refugees during this time is sometimes referred to as an "exodus",[7][8] as in a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1961 that asserted that the presence of Tibetan refugees in neighboring countries was "evidence" of rights abuses in Tibet.[9]

Second wave

After the opening of Tibet in the 1980s to trade and tourism, a second Tibetan wave of exile took place due to increasing political repression. From 1986 to 1996, 25,000 Tibetans joined and increased by 18% their exiled community in India. This movement of refugees during this second wave is sometimes referred to as a "second exodus".[10]

According to a US cable put out by WikiLeaks, from 1980 to November 2009, 87,096 Tibetans arrived in India and registered at the Dharamsala reception center, whereas 46,620 returned to Tibet after a pilgrimage in India. Most of those staying are children to attend Tibetan Children's Villages school.[11]

Present emigration

A 2008 documentary directed by Richard Martini claimed that 3,000–4,500 Tibetans arrive at Dharamshala every year.[12] Most new immigrants are children who are sent to Tibetan cultural schools, sometimes with the tacit approval of the Chinese government. Many political activists, including monks, have also crossed over through Nepal to India. Significant cultural gaps exist between recent Tibetan emigrants (gsar 'byor pa; "newcomer") and Indian-born Tibetans. The more established Tibetans in diaspora reject recent immigrant Tibetans who watch Chinese movies, sing Chinese music, and can speak Mandarin, are also well settled in the Tibetan community. Dalai lama encourages to learn multiple languages and himself can speak many languages.[13]

In India

Tibetan Lady in Indian Refugee Camp


The main organisation of the Tibetan diaspora is the Tibetan diaspora NGOs deal with the cultural and social life of the diaspora, the preservation of cultural heritage, and the promotion of political Tibetan independence.


The [16] According to the information on the website of the CTA, as of 2009.01.13. there were 28 CTSA schools whose enrollment was 9,991 students.[17]

In 2009, The Tibetan Children's Villages established the first Tibetan higher college in exile in Bangalore (India) which was named "The Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education". The goals of this college are to teach Tibetan language and Tibetan culture, as well as science, the arts, counseling and information technology.[18]

Migration from settlements in India

Migration of young people from Tibetan settlements in India is a serious cause of concern as it threatens Tibetan identity and culture in exile with marginalization. According to Tenzin Lekshay, most exile settlements are guarded by old aged people, some established schools in the settlements are on the verge of closing for lack of pupils, and graduates are scattering to Indian cities because of the lack of employment opportunities in the community.[19]

According to Nawang Thogmed, a CTA official, the most oft-cited problems for newly migrating Tibetans in India are the language barrier, their dislike for Indian food, and the warm climate, which makes Tibetan clothing uncomfortable. Some exiles also fear that their Tibetan culture is being diluted in India. Indian television runs in Hindi and English.[20]

In Bhutan

Few Tibetans settled in Bhutan after 1959, as the country was used mainly as a transit route to India. However, in 1961, following growing tensions between China and India, India sealed its northern border with Bhutan, prompting Bhutan to arrange an emergency meeting with the Government of India (GOI) and the CTA to deal with the Tibetans stuck in the country. The government of Bhutan agreed to take in 4000 settlers, although ordinary Bhutanese became increasingly resentful of the Tibetan immigrants because of their refusal to assimilate into Bhutanese culture.[21] In 1974, 28 Tibetans, including the representative of the Dalai Lama in Thimphu, were arrested and accused of a conspiracy to assassinate King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. When the CTA refused to provide evidence of their innocence, relations between Bhutan and Dharamshala soured,[22] and in 1979, the Government of Bhutan announced that any Tibetan in the country that did not take Bhutanese citizenship would be repatriated back to China. Despite the CTA's opposition, 2300 Tibetans applied for citizenship; most of the remainder resettled in India.[21]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "127935 Tibetans living outside Tibet: Tibetan survey".  
  2. ^ Edward J. Mills et al., Prevalence of mental disorders and torture among Tibetan refugees: A systematic review, BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2005; 5: 7. "It is estimated that more than 150,000 Tibetan refugees reside in the neighboring countries of Bhutan, Nepal, and India"
  3. ^ His Holiness the Dalai Lama Meets Himalayan Community and Foreigners who visited pre-1959 Tibet, 6 May 2009, "He said that the Tibetan refugees numbered just 150,000"
  4. ^ McDowell, Adam (2010-10-18). "Tibetans find a Canadian Shangri-La".  
  5. ^ A Spot in the Mountains by Arjun Sawhney
  6. ^ Central Tibetan Administration data
  7. ^ R.S. Chaurasia, History of Modern China, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2004, ISBN 81-269-0315-5 p 335 : "He was followed by unprecedented exodus of Tibetans into exile."
  8. ^ Hêng-chih Tu & Hengzhi Du, A study of the treaties and agreements relating to Tibet: a documentary history of international relations of Tibet, Edition Tunghai University, 1971, p 183 : "Since January 1960 it has been estimated that more than 42000 refugees have left Tibet. Of these, some 15000 are at present in Nepal, 3000 in Sikkim, 40000 in Bhutan, and more than 20000 in India. This mass exodus of refugees, by itself, provides perhaps eloquent evidence that people in Tibet obviously found it difficult to live a normal life in their own country."
  9. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1723 (XVI) 20 December 1961
  10. ^ The Situation of Tibet and its People: Maura Moynihan, Consultant to Refugees International, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Tibet, May 13, 1997
  11. ^ 85,000 Tibetans reach India since 1980: US cable The Times of India, Dec 18, 2010
  12. ^
  13. ^ Hess, Julia Meredith (2009). Immigrant Ambassadors: Citizenship and Belonging in the Tibetan Diaspora.  
  14. ^ "These offices act as de facto embassies of the CTA"
  15. ^ "the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the de facto embassy of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Taiwan —"
  16. ^ Central Tibetan Schools Administration website
  17. ^ TCEWF - Central School for Tibetans
  18. ^ Dalai Lama inaugurates first Tibetan college in India by Phayul
  19. ^ Tenzin Lekshay, Kalon Tripa's election: Crucial time of our history, Engaging Snow Lion and a Dragon, July 17, 2009 : "the persistence threat of voluntary marginalization of Tibetan identity and cultures due to the migration is a serious cause of concerns. In exile, most of our settlements are guarded by old aged people, with young ones settling in distant abroad. Some of our established schools in the settlements are near to close with the lack of pupils, graduates are scattering around Indian metros with the lack of employment opportunities in our community."
  20. ^ Magnier, Mark (2010-09-22). "Tibetan exiles in Dharamshala, India, settle in with disillusionment".  
  21. ^ a b Roemer, Stephanie (2008). The Tibetan Government-in-Exile: Politics at Large.  
  22. ^ Pulman, Lynn (1983). "Tibetans in Karnataka".  

Further reading

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