Despite staying in India for the past 55 years and having voting rights, Tibetan refugees, who fled China to escape oppression, could not hold land in their own name in India. But that's set to change, at least in the South Indian state of Karnataka.
In a move that will help Tibetan farmers, the Karnataka government has finally decided to allow them to lease land in their own names.
The move will help Tibetan farmers to avail of several government benefits, such as crop loans, incentives on agriculture equipment and other subsidies.
The Karnataka government made the announcement last month and asked officers to issue the Rights Tenancy and Crops (RTC) record to Tibetan refugees.
The agricultural land will first be leased to the Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC), which will then allot it to the Tibetans.
The rule also states that Tibetans can hold land only to grow crops and can't transfer or mortage it. Any violation will lead to the termination of the lease, the report said.
In the 1960s, the government of Karnataka was the first state in India to positively respond to New Delhi's request to allot land to Tibetan refugees.
After an agreement between the Centre and the state, 3,000 Tibetan refugees were allotted a 1,500 hectare tract of uninhabited jungle land on lease at Bylakuppe, 80 kilometres west of Mysore.
Today, lakhs of Tibetans have been rehabilitated in camps at Mundagod in Uttara Kannada, Bylakuppe in Mysore and Gurupura in Kollegal. The Tibetans-in-exile have developed into a self-sustained diaspora, who have set up several independent business while continuing with farming.
The Tibetans have a flourishing business of selling woollen sweaters across India during winter, after which they return back to their settlements to farm the lands. The refugees since 2014 have been granted voting rights in India.