Friday, February 28, 2014

Social Media and Humanitarian Disasters

Ishita Dey

It is important to highlight at the outset that social media is personal and public in nature. The personal status messages range from what one had for breakfast, to voicing opinions. The range is vast and it is this vastness that creates an ambiguity regarding social media as a platform. The ambiguity and shifting roles that one can adopt with little or no responsibility has been termed as “slacktivism” in social media. Though the term was originally coined by Dwight Ozard and Fred Clark at the Cornerstone Festival 1995 series it has come to represent the activism on social media particularly after Evgeny Morozove (2009) argued, “"Slacktivism" is an apt term to describe feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact. It gives those who participate in "slacktivist" campaigns an illusion of having a meaningful impact on the world without demanding anything more than joining a Facebook group. Remember that online petition that you signed and forwarded to your entire contacts list? That was probably an act of slacktivism...” (

“Slactivism” becomes a tool for analysing social media activism and it is against this backdrop that statements like “We are not people of comment and like” from Egyptian revolution needs to be understood. In one of the provocative articles, Shazia Islam (2013) mentions that such acts of slactivism do nothing beyond raising awareness. She writes, “There is absolutely nothing wrong in the advocacy of a worthy cause and standing up for what you believe in. But the effectiveness of doing so only behind the glow of a laptop monitor or cell phone screen is up for debate. History has always had its share of band-wagon fist-pumpers who stand in the background claiming, “Oh yeah. I’m in,” with cheeks stuffed with free food, and slacktivism is no different. There is little evidence that taking a couple of quick minutes to tweet, update a Facebook status, or fall in line with millions of others’ profile pictures will do anything more than satisfy the ego”( personal nature of the social media platforms on one hand, and the ability with which a rather active facebook user, twitteratti can choose to remain silent or participate in the real life makes the role of social media arbitrary. The arbitrariness arises from the ambiguity that lies in “virtual action” of likes, comments and statuses and action on the field. Virtual discussions practices can be used to generate interest, increase awareness and act as a pressure group through online petitions, but the task of translating virtual action and interest through collective action in real world requires an understanding of how collective action is organised through change of roles. Post flash – floods in Uttarakhand, there were several “community pages” were created, particularly facebook. Three kinds of information were shared across facebook and twitter: available information on missing people, available information on rescued people and appeal to relief and rehabilitation. In some cases the social media pages also resorted to pressure making tactics regarding rescue efforts and creating pressures through online petitions. What remains to be seen is how “social” is the social media, the political rootedness of the social media social media and its actors, and access and reach of social media. While social media’s roots remain in the personal, the collective use of the social media platforms has increasingly been under surveillance and anonymous tweeps, bloggers have used the platforms to generate awareness campaigns. At this crossroad, lies the ways in which Information and Communication Technology intersects through Google Person Finder – a specially designed service which was used during Uttarakhand Relief work. Google Person Finder – web based application helped to track missing persons. Such applications were used widely post Katrina by IT professionals who worked on available maps, divided them into zones and developed web based application to track missing persons. Multiple websites were created instead of single integrated one and Google Person Finder is an open source application specifically used in disasters to track missing persons where any interested party can look up for information or update information about missing persons. The information is later deleted according to Google’s web portal. For instance, the person finder page in case of Uttarakhand is not available any more. Social media, and its uses are to be understood within the contexts in which it emerges, and the use of technology to address those issues.

IDPs from Swat Province in Uncertainty as Peace Talks Fail between

Compiled by Ishita Dey

On 15 February 2014, a news report in TOI carried a report of how families were looking forward to the peace talks between Government of Pakistan and the Taliban. This instilled a hope in Bibi and many others like her, who were forced to live in temporary shelters, IDP camps because of the conflict torn tribal areas in Pakistan. According to this report, ZarmataBibi lost her son, grand-daughter to conflict and was forced to flee in 2012 from her home. Another resident from Khyber district (one of the worst hit areas due to an army operation against Khyber and where there have been clashes last year as well) wished that this dialogue will lead to some solution. He has been living in a camp since 2009. The conflict in SWAT province left people homeless and the Government’s attempts to take control in the semi-autonomous tribal zone has been met with multi-layered challenges of home grown insurgency, and revenge killings. As the talks were on, 23 paramilitary soldiers were reportedly executed as a revenge for army operations in the volatile tribal regions (See Reuters). This has led to a deadlock and the peace talks have collapsed leaving the displaced in camps, or temporary shelters in perpetual uncertainty.
For details visit:
“Pakistan’s displaced families put faith in peace talks” The Times of India, 15 February 2014.; Accessed on 16 February 2014

“Peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban collapse after killings” 17 February 2014;; Accessed on 17 February 2014.

Afghan Refugees in India Fear Return

Compiled by Ishita Dey

As of 2011, there were more than 18000 refugees in India (External Affairs Ministry) and out of them 10,000 reportedly were registered with UNHCR. Though international statistics of UNHCR show voluntary repatriation of 5.7 million people in the last ten years, some 2.7 million people continue live in exile in neighbouring countries. According to the report “Afghan Refugees in India refuse to return fearing violence” (The Outlook), most of the refugees were forced to flee Afghanistan and struggled to make a living in Delhi. One of the refugees point out that though people are retuning back, they continue to live life in conflict torn Afghanistan with no jobs or money. Fearing an uncertain future most people do not want to go back. Some also point out that they fear that once the NATO troops are withdrawn, the Taliban might take over. The fear of the past looms large as refugees continue to struggle and negotiate with the changing rules and modalities of documentation in India, as India is a non-signatory to 1951 convention. The Government of India, as the report suggests has started issuing long term visas and according to a UNHCR official, some of the Chin refugees from Myanmar have obtained them. Initially, there was a provision for giving visas for six months which had to be renewed and failure to do so mean hefty sums of fine. Under the given circumstances, Afghan refugees in Delhi prefer not to return to their homeland and live a life in transit.

For details see:-Saini, G.“Afghan Refugees in India refuse to return fearing violence” 22 December 2013; Accessed on 13 February 2014.

Australia to Shut Down for Mainland Immigration Centres

Compiled by Ishita Dey

Australia has been under the scanner for its immigration policies and in its latest attempt to securitise borders the Government has announced to shut down the mainland immigration centres. These detention centres are run by British outsourcing firm Serco Group Plc and this closure will save A$88.8 million. According to the article “Australia hardens refugee policy, to close mainland centres”( see link below), this move comes at a time when Australian Navy has been reportedly been returning asylum seeker vessels to Indonesia. Indonesia has been a transit route for boat people trying to migrate to Australia. Despite the recent shift of asylum seeking processing facilities to Nauru and Papua New Guinea, the closure of the immigration centres clearly shows the ways in which much criticised off-shore immigration arrangements are newer ways of controlling “boat people”.

For details visit:; Accessed on 23 January 2014; 2014

Q&A Session with Meghna Guhathakurta

This report is prepared by Shreya Ghosh. She was a participant of the Eleventh Annual Orientation Course on Forced Migration, 2013
[Meghna Guhathakurta is the Executive Director of Research Initiatives, Bangladesh, a research organization working with marginalized communities. Formerly she was Professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She was the speaker of an interactive sessionat Eleventh Annual Orientation Course on Forced Migration, organized by Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group on December 8, 2013]

Meghna Guhathakurta initiated the discussion through sharing her work on family histories and how family can be a crucial site of investigation to understand the ways in which decisions related to migration are taken and to unravel the different gender roles in negotiating migration. She further spoke on the idea of 'violence', 'fear' and migration. She spoke of instances where violence does not necessarily demonstrate itself explicitly, but results in a sense of (psychological) fear. The idea of perceived 'fear' is important in understanding forced migration and, according to her, family is again an institution that negotiates with such fear and looking at family narratives can become critical in understanding fear driven migration.

Q.Can you speak on the experience of environment driven migration in Bangladesh and whether looking at 'family' can be used as a 'method' of investigation in such cases.

A.Bangladesh is among the countries that are prone to environmental disasters and related migration. This is especially so in case of south-west Bangladesh, which is also where the Sunderbans are located. Here, drastic changes take place in the environment due to siltation and erosion of soil which leads to large migration of mostly agricultural laborers. Another cause of forced migration remains the frequent change of river course in Bangladesh.

One has not used family narratives as a method for looking at environmental migrations. But there remains a possibility. Such environment driven migration often leads to men in the effected villages migrating for work, while women are left behind. There are villages now that only consists of women. Abandoned women become vulnerable. There are instances were seasonal laborers, who come into new areas, marry women who have once been abandoned and then they too leave after a while, at the end of the season.

An important aspect about cross border migration is that successive migrations take place through same border passes and areas, using the networks that are established. There is also a continuous negotiation with border guards and state institutions.

Q.Has there been any significant migration, specially of any minority community, due to recent political crisis in Bangladesh (Shahbag movement)?

A.One specific instance is that of migration among the Buddhist community in Bangladesh. There were some rumors and panic related to mob violence which led to migratory trends among the aforementioned group to other Buddhist majority states. Such migration can be momentary or cyclical.

Also there are other deeper issues that need to be highlighted here. In Bangladesh, there is a tendency towards land grabbing within the influential political and elite classes. Minorities and the land belonging to the migrants are especially susceptible. There is a systematic structure of laws and norms that has been devised to effect such land grabbing. The Enemy Property Act was a legislation of such kind. In more recent times, this has been followed by legislation to try and control temple land or property held by communities for religious purposes (devatya property).

Also there are times when the state encourages migration for remittances. Equally, it is true that migration happens because people want to live a better life. For instance people go out on dangerous and uncertain ventures, traveling long distances, in anticipation of better livelihood and living conditions. Some such travels even become fatal for few migrants.

Q.Is there any change in perception of self-identity among new generation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh? Does the new generation recognize a change from being refugees to being stateless?

A.Protracted refugee-hood can become a condition of statelessness. UNHCR has introduced the category of statelessness but the Bangladesh state does not consider Rohingyas as stateless. They consider Myanmar as responsible for them.

On part of the Rohingya refugees, the older generation is very conscious of their Myanmarese belonging and cultural and linguistic roots. They are also very conscious of ensuring a certain continuation of the same among their next generation. While teaching them language skills and education in camps, the mothers of the Rohingya refugee children often complained about the teaching medium not being the Burmese language and the fear of losing the language among the new generation. Hence while teaching at the camps, one had to develop teaching programmes in the Burmese language.

Q.Has there been any case of displacement due to the Rampal power plant project?

A.This again is a project in the south-western part of Bangladesh. The construction of the said project was stopped due to protests. But the rate of displacement due to large construction projects in Bangladesh is high. The displaced also receive very less or often no compensation. The displaced from the Jamuna bridge project have not received due compensation. Also there are gas explosion related disasters. The displaced and victims of Magurchara gas explosion have not yet received compensation. The Kaptai dam in Bangladesh has been the source of one of the largest refugee population group.

Q.On the nature of work by Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB) in the Rohingya refugee camps?

A.RIB does not follow the top down developmental model of forcing change from above. In its efforts it negotiates with existing community conventions in order to make change participatory. Over the time, we have seen the relevance of working with and breaking the cultural codes.

Q.Is it not that working through existing cultural norms of communities re-enforces prevailing patriarchal norms. How does it foresee change?

A.Yes, but it is important to work with existing cultural norms in order to make change acceptable. It is like walking on a thin line. Negotiating with community conventions is also important for legitimizing change and in guise work towards women empowerment. Another important aspect is of protection. In case of negotiating through community conventions it helps to gain the confidence of the community and hence one is better placed to protect them. Losing the confidence of the community leadership might lead to loosing access to the community all-together. It is important to remember here that one is dealing with multiple stake-holders – the Bangladesh government on the one hand and the UNHCR on the other – who might not like very much interference. In such a scenario one always has to retain the confidence of the community. The question one always has to keep in mind, over and above everything else, is the responsibility to protect the community. Hence the perspective of refugees is crucial, it is important to understand what people want.

“Shaping Technology” for the Protection of Refugees

Marko Szilveszter MACSKOVICH

The incorporation of innovation into the humanitarian workflow, striving to find new solutions, especially from outside of the sector and to express willingness to embrace novelty is an emerging tendency in the behavior of humanitarian agencies. Solutionsthat enter through the humanitarian gateway can have minor, complementary as well as major paradigm shift causing attributes.

The innovation culture wherein the decision is being made on novel solutions has the rigorous task to ensure that the choice will serve the intended output. For technology-based solutions, especially the ones that are affecting and even defining identity, the threshold of acceptance must be set proportionally to the strictness of privacy safeguards and the purpose envisaged. Further, the understanding of the technology behind the solution to grasp its potential, its risks, limitations and life span is pivotal.

The rationale for reaching out to technology is that it has an inherent potential to expand protection space against contracting tendencies. To discover the spaces where it can deliver these outputs, refugee protection is being placed in the notion of social shaping processes where innovative ideas may enter and materialize in technological artifacts.

Only being aware of the capability of a technology to produce an output is not enough to capture its full potential. Technology needs to be understood from the outside, as much as from the inside: what are the shaping forces, how they are interconnected, how control can be employed, what are the limits, the risks and through what modalities can they be resolved and mitigated in the short- as well as in the long term. While the decision is being negotiated on the use of a particular solution, the knowledge-base and methodology of the organizational innovation culture should take note of the solution’s inherent attributes. Not just its impact but also the shaping forces of the solution,from the inside and from the outside.

These considerations are even more focal in the humanitarian context where funding, and thus room to maneuver in choices, is limited and the target population is highly sensitive to risks. Humanitarian organizations ought to endeavor for a thorough understanding of the envisaged technology’s holistic posture, especially in reference to the expected output as it rests at the core of the decision-making process. The “black-box” of technology needs to be opened and its composing elements need to be looked at with the requirement of transparency.

Space is present within the refugee protection realm to employ novel ways to positively impact the life of this particular social group. In this article I focus on how this space can be cultivated and consciously developed. It remains conscious of positive expectations generally connected to the employment of technologies, and although acknowledging the potential of benefits, it simultaneously endorses a cautious approach. Technology cannot be expected as the ultimate solution, rather a tool of complementarity. The solution it delivers – especially in the refugee context – is highly time sensitive and susceptible to all environmental variables. Technology’s deployment should be accompanied with the tool’s thorough understanding, including its potential benefits balanced with cautious expectations in light of realities in the field.

The “social shaping of technology” (SST) approach (Williams & Edge, 1996)argues that a technology to be perceived and looked at with the impetus purely on its impact and outcomes does not allow for a deep understanding of the “technology artifact”, and does not broaden the corresponding technology policy agenda. Instead of the linear, traditional approach the SST argues for the opening of the black-box of technology to make visible the socio-economic patterns embedded in the content of technology and the process of innovation(Bijker & Law, 1994; Ruth Schwartz Cowan, 1985). It implies that there is a particular process behind the shaping, design and implementation of technology, impacted by organizational, political, economic and cultural factors and not only an inner technical logic. Understanding these factors and their role and impact has a positive effect on the apprehension of the relationship between scientific excellence, technological innovation and economic and social well-being.

The argument of social shaping also implies the existence of shaping forces with the existence of a set of choices made at every stage in the generation and implementation of technology-based solutions, not just resting on purely technology attribute focused considerations but in pair with technology content influencing social factors. Choices can be made on various levels including design, systems, and trajectory of innovation processes leading to potentially different technological outcomes, ultimately impacting the implication towards society and towards a particular social group. The choices that can be made over technology and with consideration of the position of those who make these choices and their relationships with other actors, agents in the same or adjoining issue areas, create the setting for the politics of technology. Such a setting renders technology as non-neutral, subjecting it to the interest of particular actor(s) or (social) group(s) to preserve or alter social relations. Ultimately technology therewith becomes a platform for/of politics (Bruno Latour, 1988; Hård, 1993; Winner, 1978,1980).

In thecontext of forced migration, and zooming-in further on refugee protection, the agents that are exercising protection mandates are the ones who make the ultimate choices on technology. These choices are envisaged to be democratic to allow for a constructive technology assessment, involving therewith primarily the refugees – as the ultimate beneficiaries – to participate. Yet due to their“exposed” beneficiary position, the shaping and the control of the process what leads to the final choice on technology remains incomplete. (Rip, Misa, & Schot, 1995; Schot, 1992)

In this article’s scope, the technological artifact forming social processes are clustered into three categories: (1) general social processes, (2) refugee initiated processes, and (3) refugee targeted, through UNHCR, and other humanitarian agents. The interpretative sequence in each case differs. This classification takes note of the linkage between user and consumer and implies the use of the SST model. In the wave of economic dynamics and profit-oriented entrepreneurism the greater bulk of the population, across all social groups, are subject to a general socialization process through which they are able to access technological artifacts designed for the general population. These artifacts are stipulated to be accessible by its envisaged target groups.

The particular attributes of the refugee domain, such as the area covering the ultra-vulnerable refugee population, have its own dedicated social interpretative and shaping dynamics. Refugees, through the general social processes, are able to access and take advantage of the global market produced technological artifacts, such as mobile phones and the internet. To a minuscule degree they also contribute to the shaping of these products. Owing to the particularities of this – ultra-vulnerable – social group they can genuinely perceive and can also become suppliers of technological artifact to their own need. These solutions are not to be understood here as high-end products; rather solutions adapted or compiled from the general market but with the insider’s advantage to market its sub-version.

The category centre to this article is the social process that manifests between the suppliers and the refugees, with the inclusion of the humanitarian agents. The linkage that then impacts the development and control of the technological artifact creation and deployment rests on the humanitarian agents’ interpretation of the refugees’ needs, expectations. The thereby silhouetted humanitarian goals will formulate the baseline information that will define the choice and employment of the solution. The attention of this article is directed on the segment where the humanitarian agent interacts with the technology-based solution and its supplier; to what extent the SST model’s attributes are being manifested – in policy development (a technology-aware innovation policy and innovation cycle) and the understanding and choice of solution (based on an technology-aware assessment scheme).

Defining the needs of the population of concern is an initial step to embark on finding corresponding technology-based solutions. Most of the applied solutions are building on already invented formulas and being adapted to particular needs. Yet to ensure that the right mainstreamed solution is being employed or a new potential solution is being endeavored, an out-and-out apprehension is innate in reference to the interpreted value-needs/gaps of the displaced persons.

This social shaping discourse intends to direct attention to the social processes that the refugee protection domain similarly witnesses. Refugee protection practices also employ technology. Moreover, technology is even being used not just through the deployment of humanitarian actors, but by way of the general social processes the refugees are subject to. Practices of agencies and entities within the refugee domain can be also interpreted within the linear and the SST models.

This article emphasizes the need that technology-based solutions should be looked at beyond the linear perception. Proper technology-aware policies need to be developed that capture the need to understand what shapes technology, and the potential ways of how envisaged impacts can be achieved and their processes controlled. Policies are stipulated to include a scheme or mechanism that ensures such insights.

Dalit Camera: Through Untouchable Eyes

Samata Biswas

Human Rights violations and its media coverage have been under a scanner for its inconsistence reporting, and choosing to report based on market interests and interests of target audience. These interests often clash, and collide with majoritarian views and wave of the masses leaving little space for generating content regarding issues that affect the marginalised. It is at this juncture, and with this realisation, that Dalit Camera: Through Untouchable Eyesself-consciously formed itself as a platform that would enable marginalised voices to tell their own stories.

In their own words:
Dalit Camera (DC) is a YouTube Channel, through which we (largely students) cover the perspectives on/voices of Dalits, Adivasis, Bahujans and Minorities (DABM). DC has been active for the past one year. The first incident covered by DC was the desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Hyderabad. Though we did upload some videos before, this was the first time that we started taking the perspectives of different voices on an issue. Basically we were fed up with mainstream English channels that were outdoing each other on accusing DABM people. As a response to the cartelised-hegemony of the English news channels, we started taking different views, including that of Dalit activists and making it available to the public. The first issue that we dealt with at length and gave us some fame was the Osmania University beef issue. Our standpoint found resonances in many campuses across India like the English and Foreign Languages University, Osmania University, Hyderabad Central University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University, where Dalit-Bahujan and Minority students rubbed shoulders for conducting beef festivals for gaining basic food rights in their respective campuses. The next issue we took up was the Ambedkar Cartoon controversy. This was soon followed by a critical discussion on Onam. The videos taken by DC in this regard played a vital role in examining the history of Onam from different DABM perspectives and forced several campuses across India to relook the way Onam was being celebrated and a hegemonically 'neutral' but violent Kerala identity was being constructed through that.

The platform of social media is extremely useful in this regard. Youtube allows one to upload any video one chooses (provided one has a camera and an internet connection. Platforms such as facebook and blogs, mailing lists related to similar concerns can then share the link on their pages and threads, whereby concerned individuals and groups can access the video. Since, there is minimal mediation and supervision, the content, no matter what, can be circulated widely and in very little time, across virtual and geographical boundaries. In contexts of forced migration, the narratives of forced migrants are hardly ever present. A case in point is Nonadanga, a displaced colony right next to Kolkata, where the conditions of living are abysmal, law and order situation deplorable. While interviewing the residents, Dalit Camera came across reports of gross misdemeanour by the police in the case of a domestic violence complaint filed by a Dalit woman against her husband. The subsequent suicide of the man led to protests in the area, which were termed “mob fury” by the mainstream media. Only through the interviews published uploaded by Dalit Camera could one truly understand the conditions of living, enabling various forms of violence and disabling the scope of protest. This is what one of the activists had to say:
After the setting up of the police camp here, there has been an increase in the number of arrack shops in the area. There were only two arrack shops before the camp was set up, but the number has risen to five now. Moreover, any organizational move made by us is squashed by the police. We do not want the police camp here.

Other incidents of caste atrocities, gender and communal atrocities also often face similar administrative and media apathy- more so when the atrocities are perpetrated by the organs of the state. At such a juncture, given the recent technological developments and the relative affordability/ availability of social media, Dalit Camera emerges as such a platform where marginalised people present their own stories, multiple points of views can speak to each other and different social movements and activists can communicate with one another.

Visit the following links for more details nonadanga&catid=119&Itemid=132

Urban Profiling of Refugee Situations in Delhi. Refugees from Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia and their Indian Neighbours: A Comparative Study

Ishita Dey

In 2013, Joint IDP Profiling Service, the Feinstein International Centre (Tufts University) and UNHCRconducted a study on urban refugees in Delhi. The profiling study was based on a combination of methods and was limited to refugees that concern UNHCR – refugees from Myanmar, Afghan refugees ( Hindu Sikh Afghan refugees were excluded and Somalian refugees. The profiling work was carried out to identify specific areas that needed attention to design futures programmes and advocacy work- particularly to work towards self-reliance of the refugees. Hence, the study not only focussed on the refugee groups but their Indian neighbours as well.

The study focussed on five areas :
1)Demographic and household characteristics in terms of age, ethnicity, sex, ethnicity and household consumption
2)Migration patterns
3)Livelihood opportunities
4)Human and social capital including education and other skills required
5)Access to education among refugee children

The report highlighted that though Government of India has recently allowed UNHCR registered refugees to apply for long term visas which will allow them to seek employment in formal sector, the report brings to the forefront the harassment and discrimination faced by refugee children in Government schools. The report highlights that though access to government schools is not a problem the discrimination reported by Myanmarese and Somali children in these schools need special attention. There is a need to generate awareness campaigns in neighbourhoods with refugee population and to identify schools to improve the educational environment. The report feels that the intra-community networks and cultural exchanges between refugees and Indians is one of the ways to ensure cordial relationship with local communities. Refugees from Myanmar and Somalia reported harassment from all quarters (school, landlords and locals) in their neighbourhoods and the report feels such the ties between the local and refugee community should be strengthened. The profiling report could be a useful tool for institutions working on programmes regarding strengthening livelihoods and also calls for strengthening dialogue between the local population and refugee communities.

For detailed report:-; Accessed on 10 January 2014

Voting Rights for Tibetans in India

Shuvro Prosun Sarker

According to some newspaper reports and UNHCR India’s news update, the children of Tibetan refugees who were born in India between 1950 to 1987 will now be able to vote. The decision of the Election Commission of India came after the verdict of a Karnataka High Court Judgment in August 2013.

The petitioner of the writ petition, Tenzin C. L. Rinpochae, was born in India on 1985 and got identity certificate from the concerned Indian authority as the child of a Tibetan refugee parents. He filed an application for Indian Passport to the Regional Passport Officer at Bangalore and the application was rejected on ground that he is not an Indian Citizen. On 19.02.2013 he received an official communication regarding the denial of Indian passport to him and that decision has been taken in consultation with the Foreigners Division, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India. The reason behind the denial of the passport per the MHA’s opinion was that the children of Tibetan refugees cannot be automatically treated as Indian citizens unless they are granted a certificate upon application under Section 9(2) of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955. This denial resulted as the present writ petition before the High Court of Karnataka.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted before the court that children of Tibetans who were born in India between the period of 26.01.1950 to 01.07.1987 would automatically be Indian citizens as per the Section 3(1)a of the Indian Citizenship Act, 1955. Section 3 reads as follows:

“3. Citizenship by birth:
(1) Except as provided in sub- section (2), every person born in India,-
  (a) on or after the 26th day of January, 1950 , but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1986 (51 of 1986 );
  (b) on or after such commencement and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.]
(2) A person shall not be such a citizen by virtue of this section if at the time of his birth-
  (a) his father possesses such immunity from suits and legal process as is accorded to an envoy of a foreign sovereign power accredited to the President of India and is not a citizen of India; or
  (b) his father is an enemy alien and the birth occurs in a place then under occupation by the enemy.”

The counsel for the petitioner also placed reliance of an identical matter decided by the Delhi High Court in re Namgyal Dolkar vs. Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs. While delivering the judgment, Hon’ble Justice Bopanna observed that:
“Having noticed that decision rendered by the High Court of New Delhi, I am of the opinion that if a similar circumstance arises, certainly the petitioner would be entitled to the benefit of the conclusion reached therein inasmuch as I see no reason whatsoever to take a different view from what has been stated by the Delhi High Court.”

These two judgments and the decision of the Election Commission of India can be seen as an attempt to reconcile the issue of citizenship demand of various refugee groups present in India. However, if identical matter has risen from the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh and in that case no one knows what would be the executive decision, given that judicial decision would be in favor of the Chakmas. There might be another reason behind this executive decision in favor of the Tibetans that the assimilation of the Tibetans with the Indian society with full citizenship rights in the near 25 years will diminish the Free Tibet movement and thus the Indo-China relationship will get a new blossom.