A section of Tibetan refugees in Karnataka can exercise their franchise in the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April 17.
The Election Commission on February 7 directed the electoral officers in States to include children of Tibetan refugees aged above 18 in the electoral list “because they are citizens of the country.”
However, because of a technical glitch, not all of them will get the right to vote though there are about 25,000 eligible voters in Karnataka of Tibetan origin. While those settled in Bangalore and Mysore and already registered in the rolls will vote, many eligible voters in the five settlements elsewhere in the State will have to wait till the next election.
Gelek J., coordinator for the Tibetan Settlement Office, Bylakuppe, said though a few refugees in Bangalore could get the voter cards following the EC’s direction, those settled in Bylakuppe could not. For, C. Shikha, Deputy Commissioner, Mysore, did not receive any clarification on the citizenship criteria till Sunday, last date for inclusion of names in the voter list.
However, Ms. Gelek pointed out that the EC had directed that the voting right be not denied to Tibetan applicants. “We are yet to get details of those who applied for voting rights during the special drive,” she said.
Children of Tibetan refugees born in India between 1950 and 1987 as mentioned in the Citizenship Act 1955 can no longer be denied enrolment in the voter list. The EC’s move came in the wake of an August 2013 Karnataka High Court order, which paved the way for granting Indian citizenship to Tibetan refugees, the EC order said.
According to Chief Electoral Officer Anil Kumar Jha, the EC has directed the Deputy Commissioners to enrol the names of those refugees who have complied with the stipulated conditions.
“The Election Commission’s move is a great relief to Tibetan refugees who are currently deemed ‘stateless’,” said Mr. Sonam, a teacher in the Namdroling Monastery of Bylakuppe.
Tibetan Youth Congress ( Karnataka) president Lhekyeb said that he was happy with the move of the Election Commission.