Dharamshala: - For the first time in history Tibetan residents of the Northern town, Dharamsala have participated in the Indian general election on Wednesday (7 May), allowing them to have their voices heard on the next Member of Parliament. 217 Tibetans are said to have voted.
'Nearly 150 Tibetans have voted in various constituencies,' Indian media have reported citing Officials. "Tibetans were very excited to have voted for Indian leadership in general elections. There were 133 Tibetans at our booth who cast their votes by 3pm," one source said from the polling station in Dharamsala.
Lobsang Wangyal, (44) who directs the Miss Tibet pageant and is a profound activist for Tibet, told the Tibet Post that, "it was a wonderful experience. I feel like I have a voice in India; before we had no official status in India." He also added, "We have been adopted by the Indian government and now that is complete."
Many have welcomed this opportunity to have a voice in their exiled country. Wangyal also commented on this issue that, "I know my roots, I know what I want. I want a free Tibet; it's my life's goal, but having a citizenship makes life easier for many."
Sources revealed that to the Times of India that 1,200 people of Tibetan origin had registered to vote in Himachal Pradesh, but many failed to meet the conditions. Even though in February of this year, India's chief election body directed that all states should include Tibetans and their children that are born in India in elections. Nonetheless, after a change in rules, more than 40,000 would be eligible to vote in this hill state, they added.
Tibetan Settlement Officer Sonam Dorjee, who lives in Dharamsala as well as nearly 18,000 exiled Tibetans and the Tibetan Spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, announced that a lack of clarity amongst voters is the main reason for the poor enrolment numbers over the previous years. "Moreover, our aim is not to settle here (in India) permanently. Ultimately, we have to go back to our homeland," he added.
Dorjee expressed that voter card application was not clear on the necessary documents that were needed amongst Tibetans in exile, which explains the lack of voting in previous elections.
'As many as 217 Tibetans were approved to vote in Dharamshala. Of these, 170 are from McLeod Ganj, and 140 have voted,' Tibet Sun reported citing a local election officer.
Over Tibetans 400 from Majnu ka Tilla have registered voters. More than 300 are reported to have voted on 10 April in the third phase. However, these Tibetans have been voting for a number of years.
But, officials of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) have admitted that the yearning to return to their homeland is essentially the main reason that Tibetans were discouraged from enrolling as Indian voters. Lobsang Sangay has already expressed that those Tibetans in exile are able to apply for Indian citizenship and is a personal choice; administration would not compel anyone to do so.
"The decision to apply for Indian or any other country's citizenship is a personal choice," Sangay said in August last year.
The general elections were held for 35 days in April and May for the 543-member Lok Sabha. Monday marked the end of polling in the world’s largest democracy. As many as 814 million people have participated in the 2014 general election. The country has set a new record for voter turnout at 66.38 per cent for the elections.