Tibetan diaspora

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Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Byalakuppe, India Bylakuppe. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.jpg
Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Byalakuppe, India

The Tibetan diaspora are the diaspora of Tibetan people living outside China.


Tibetan emigration has three separate stages. The first stage was in 1959 following the 14th Dalai Lama's escape to Dharamshala in India, in fear of persecution from the People's Liberation Army. The second stage occurred in the 1980s, when China partially opened Tibet to foreigners. The third stage began in 1996 and continues today although with less frequency. There is considerable social tension between first and second wave refugees, referred to as ' Shichak Tibetans' and third wave refugees referred to as ' Sanjor Tibetans'. The label ' Sanjor' is deemed a perjorative by the newcomer Tibetans.

Not all emigration from Tibet is permanent; some parents in Tibet sent their children to the communities in the diaspora to receive a traditional Tibetan Buddhist 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]

Rene de Milleville with Tibetan refugees in Gandaki Valley, near Jomosom, Nepal, October 1966. Note the head straps for carrying heavy loads. Most Tibetan refugees pass through Nepal to India, where The 14th Dalai Lama resides. Rene de Milleville 2.jpg
Rene de Milleville with Tibetan refugees in Gandaki Valley, near Jomosom, Nepal, October 1966. Note the head straps for carrying heavy loads. Most Tibetan refugees pass through Nepal to India, where The 14th Dalai Lama resides.

The larger of the other communities are in the United States, Canada (e.g. Toronto), the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, France, Taiwan and Australia. [4] [ failed verification ]

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 wave of Tibetan exodus 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 founder Julian Assange, 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]

Third and ongoing wave

Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre's Hill Top Shop in Darjeeling, India taken in September 2004. It was established on 2 October 1959, the same year the Prime Minister Nehru gave refuge to The 14th Dalai Lama his Tibetan government-in-exile. Tibetan Refugee Self Help Darjeeling.jpg
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre's Hill Top Shop in Darjeeling, India taken in September 2004. It was established on 2 October 1959, the same year the Prime Minister Nehru gave refuge to The 14th Dalai Lama his Tibetan government-in-exile.

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. 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 Tibetans from Tibet who recently escaped Tibet, and who watch Chinese movies, sing Chinese music, and can speak Mandarin, are also well settled in the Tibetan community.[ citation needed ] The Dalai Lama encourages to learn multiple languages and can speak many languages himself. [13]

Prejudicial attitude against third-wave Tibetan immigrants from 1959 immigrants exists in Tibetan diaspora world. Newcomers (post- 1990s arrivals) are referred to as 'Sanjor' by the settled Tibetans, and face social discrimination in Tibetan settlements. The social relationship is tense, and inter-marriages are rare. Strong sense of tribalism exists between various emigre groups which has resulted in physical aggressions between monastaries in south India and first-wave immigrants in the region. Lobsang Sangay, current president of CTA has promised to create unity and mutual understanding between sanjors and shichaks, but Mcdonald notes no substantive conflict resolution effect had been made so far as of 2013. [14] [15]

In India

Tibetan Lady in Indian Refugee Camp Lady in Tibetan refugee camp, India.jpg
Tibetan Lady in Indian Refugee Camp


The main organisation of the Tibetan diaspora is the Central Tibetan Administration of the 14th Dalai Lama based in the McLeod Ganj suburb of the city of Dharamsala in India. The CTA maintains Tibet Offices in 10 countries. These act as de facto embassies [16] [17] of the CTA offices of culture and information and effectively provide a kind of consular help to Tibetans. They are based in New Delhi, India; New York, USA; Geneva, Switzerland; Tokyo, Japan; London, UK; Canberra, Australia; Paris, France; Moscow, Russia; Pretoria, South Africa; and Taipei, Taiwan. 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 first Tibetan non-governmental human rights organization to be established in exile in India was the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. [18] TCHRD investigates and reports on human rights issues in Tibet and among Tibetan minorities throughout China. [19] [20]


The Central Tibetan School Administration with a seat in New Delhi is an autonomous organization established in 1961 with the objective to establish, manage and assist schools in India for the education of Tibetan children living in India while preserving and promoting their culture and heritage. According to information on its own website, as of 2009 the Administration was running 71 schools in the areas of concentration of Tibetan population, with about 10,000 students on the roll from pre-primary to class XII, and with 554 teaching staff. [21] 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. [22]

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. [23]

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. [24]

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. [25]

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. [26] In 1974, 28 Tibetans, including the representative of the 14th 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, [27] 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 the Bhutanese citizenship; most of the remainder re-settled in India. [26]

Related Research Articles

History of Bhutan aspect of history

Bhutan's early history is steeped in mythology and remains obscure. Some of the structures provide evidence that the region has been settled as early as 2000 BC. According to a legend it was ruled by a Cooch-Behar king, Sangaldip, around the 7th century BC, but not much is known prior to the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism in the 9th century, when turmoil in Tibet forced many monks to flee to Bhutan. In the 12th century, the Drukpa Kagyupa school was established and remains the dominant form of Buddhism in Bhutan today. The country's political history is intimately tied to its religious history and relations among the various monastic schools and monasteries.

Central Tibetan Administration government-in-exile

The Central Tibetan Administration is Tibet's elected parliamentary government based in Dharamshala, India. It is composed of a judiciary branch, a legislative branch, and an executive branch. The Central Tibetan Administration is also referred to as the Tibetan Government in Exile. Since its formation in 1959, the Central Tibetan Administration has not been officially recognized by China. The Tibetan diaspora and refugees support the Central Tibetan Administration by voting for members of Parliament, the President and by making annual financial contributions through the use of the "Green Book." The Central Tibetan Administration also receives international support from organizations and individuals.

Tibetan people ethnic group

The Tibetan people are an ethnic group native to Tibet on the crossroads of South and East Asia. Their current population is estimated to be around 6.5 million. In addition to living in Tibet Autonomous Region, significant numbers of Tibetans live in the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan, as well as in eastern Pakistan, northern India, Nepal, Bhutan and the western world.

Tibetan independence movement Political movement for Tibet to be independent from China

The Tibetan independence movement is a political movement for the independence of Tibet and the political separation of Tibet from China. It is principally led by the Tibetan diaspora in countries like India and the United States, and by celebrities and Tibetan Buddhists in the United States, India and Europe. The movement is no longer supported by the 14th Dalai Lama, who although having advocated it from 1961 to the late 1970s, proposed a sort of high-level autonomy in a speech in Strasbourg in 1988, and has since then restricted his position to either autonomy for the Tibetan people in the Tibet Autonomous Region within China, or extending the area of the autonomy to include parts of neighboring Chinese provinces inhabited by Tibetans.

Immigration to Bhutan has an extensive history and has become one of the country's most contentious social, political, and legal issues. Since the twentieth century, Bhutanese immigration and citizenship laws have been promulgated as acts of the royal government, often by decree of the Druk Gyalpo on advice of the rest of government. Immigration policy and procedure are implemented by the Lhengye Zhungtshog Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Department of Immigration. Bhutan's first modern laws regarding immigration and citizenship were the Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1958 and subsequent amendments in 1977. The 1958 Act was superseded by the Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1985, which was then supplemented by a further Immigration Act in 2007. The Constitution of 2008 included some changes in Bhutan's immigration laws, policy, and procedure, however prior law not inconsistent with the 2008 Constitution remained intact. Bhutan's modern citizenship laws and policies reinforce the institution of the Bhutanese monarchy, require familiarity and adherence to Ngalop social norms, and reflect the social impact of the most recent immigrant groups.

History of Tibet (1950–present) aspect of history

The history of Tibet from 1950 to the present started with the Chinese invading Tibet in 1950. Before then, Tibet had declared independence from China in 1913. In 1951, the Tibetans signed a seventeen-point agreement reaffirming China's sovereignty over Tibet and providing an autonomous administration led by Dalai Lama. In 1959 the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to northern India under cover where he established the Central Tibetan Administration. The Tibet Autonomous Region within China was officially established in 1965.

McLeod Ganj Suburb in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India

McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is known as "Little Lhasa" or "Dhasa" because of its large population of Tibetans. The Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered in McLeod Ganj.

Bhutan–China relations Diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Peoples Republic of China

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The Tibet Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in New York City, NY, United States. Founded in 1981 under the auspices of the Dalai Lama, The Tibet Fund is the primary funding organization for the health, education, refugee rehabilitation, cultural preservation and economic development programs that enable Tibetans in exile and in their homeland to sustain their language, culture and national identity.

Tashi delek is a Tibetan expression used in greeting, congratulation, and good-luck wishes. It is also used in Bhutan in the same way. "Tashi delek" is associated with Losar, the festival of the lunisolar new year.

Lobsang Sangay Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile

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Although Tibetan Canadians, or Canadians of Tibetan ancestry, comprise a small portion of Asian Canadians, Canada holds one of the largest concentrations of Tibetans outside Asia. Tibetans began immigrating to Canada as early as the early 1970s.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy investigates and reports on human rights issues in Tibet and among Tibetan minorities throughout China. It is the first Tibetan non-governmental human rights organization to be established in exile in India. TCHRD promotes the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, publishes news articles on the censorship and discrimination faced by Tibetans in Tibet; keeps databases on political prisoners, Tibetan's who have self-immolated, and Tibetans who have died in detention; and publishes reports and yearly human rights updates. TCHRD has emphasized that an "important source of support for the Tibetan people comes from the Chinese community from both within and outside China."

Kunpan Cultural School Private school in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India

The Kunpan Cultural School, provided by the Swiss-Tibetan foundation ES Tibet, is located in Dharamshala in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Protests and uprisings in Tibet since 1950

Protests and uprisings in Tibet against the government of the People's Republic of China have occurred since 1950, and include the 1959 uprising, the 2008 uprising, and the subsequent self-immolation protests.

Nepal is home to 38,490 refugees officially recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees account for a large majority of Nepal’s refugee population.

Alak Jigme Thinley Lhundup Rinpoche Tibetan religious teacher

Alak Jigme Thinley Lhundup or Alak Jigme Lhundup Rinpoche was a Tibetan Tulku, as well as the former speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and former Minister with the exile Tibet administration.

Yeshi Dhonden Tibetan doctor

Yeshi Dhonden was a Tibetan doctor of traditional Tibetan medicine, and served the 14th Dalai Lama from 1961 to 1980. In 2018, the Indian government honoured him with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

India–Tibet relations

India–Tibet relations go back to the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas; however, scholars point to the spread of Buddhism to Tibet from India during the 7th and 8th centuries AD as the first significant contact. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India after the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising. Since then, Tibetans-in-exile have been given asylum in India, with the Indian government accommodating them into 45 residential settlements across 10 states in the country. From around 150,000 Tibetan refugees in 2011, the number fell to 85,000 in 2018, according to government data. Many Tibetans are now leaving India to go back to Tibet and other countries such as United States or Germany. The Government of India, soon after India's independence in 1947, considered Tibet an independent country. However, more recently India's policy on Tibet has been based on trying not to offend China. On the core issues, India's official policy is clear: Tibet is a part of China.


  1. 1 2 "127935 Tibetans living outside Tibet: Tibetan survey". Press Trust of India. 2010-04-12. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
  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 Archived 2010-11-30 at the Wayback Machine , 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". National Post. Archived from the original on 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2013-05-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) A Spot in the Mountains by Arjun Sawhney
  6. http://www.tibet.net/en/index.php?id=9 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 42,000 refugees have left Tibet. Of these, some 15,000 are at present in Nepal, 3,000 in Sikkim, 40,000 in Bhutan, and more than 20,000 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 Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4g9PurojxAU
  13. Hess, Julia Meredith (2009). Immigrant Ambassadors: Citizenship and Belonging in the Tibetan Diaspora. Stanford University Press. pp. 65–66, 136.
  14. McDonald, P. (2013) Dharamsala Days, Dharamsala Nights
  15. https://www.tibetsun.com/opinions/2018/08/20/time-for-cta-to-distribute-vacant-houses-to-new-arrival-refugees
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-07-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "These offices act as de facto embassies of the CTA"
  17. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2011/10/20/2003516223 "the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the de facto embassy of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Taiwan —"
  18. "Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy". sourcewatch.org. The Center for Media and Democracy Source Watch. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  19. "Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD)". tibet.org. Tibet Online. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  20. "Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy". hrwa.cul.columbia.edu. Columbia University, Human Rights Web Archive. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  21. http://www.ctsa.nic.in/ Central Tibetan School Administration website
  22. TCEWF - Central School for Tibetans
  23. http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=23836&article=Dalai+Lama+inaugurates+first+Tibetan+college+in+India&t=1&c=1 Dalai Lama inaugurates first Tibetan college in India by Phayul
  24. Tenzin Lekshay, Kalon Tripa's election: Crucial time of our history Archived 2010-10-17 at the Wayback Machine , 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."
  25. Magnier, Mark (2010-09-22). "Tibetan exiles in Dharamshala, India, settle in with disillusionment". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2010-09-25.
  26. 1 2 Roemer, Stephanie (2008). The Tibetan Government-in-Exile: Politics at Large. Psychology Press. pp. 74–76. ISBN   9780415451710.
  27. Pulman, Lynn (1983). "Tibetans in Karnataka" (PDF). Kailash . 10 (1–2): 119–171.

Further reading

See also