Tibetan refugee presence in Arunachal Pradesh has become the site of contention with local identity narratives prioritizing indigenous communities over refugee rehabilitation. The announcement of the 2014 Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy (TRP) saw an immediate backlash from the politically powerful All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) and more recent outfits like the Students United Movement of All Arunachal (SUMAA). They are against providing temporary land tenure guarantees and welfare benefits to Tibetan refugees settled in the state, arguing that Tibetans are not indigenous to the state. The anti-refugee stance of the student groups must be contextualised within a broader history of refugee resettlement in the state, contemporary nationalist assertions that include ethnic binaries, pressures of land and competition for state welfare. This has produced threatening outcomes for the refugee communities including attacks on Tibetan owned businesses. This paper maps the local resistance to the TRP in West Kameng and Tawang districts comprising the Monyul region where the total Tibetan refugee presence is around 1.3% of the total combined population. The paper locates the resistance to the presence of this miniscule Tibetan population in the broader context of exclusionary narratives of blood and soil in this Indo-Tibetan borderland.
With Tawang as a sensitive sector in the ongoing India-China border dispute, the importance of these local disaffections must be factored in with regard to Indian state-making in the region. In addition, the Buddhist population in the Himalayan belt is the core constituency with regard to the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai lama with long-term implications for Tibet, India and China.
About the Speaker
Dr. Sonika Gupta is an Associate Professor of Global Politics at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India. Her research interests include the Tibetan Exile Community in India, State-making in India's Himalayan Borders and Cosmopolitanism and International Relations Theory. The ongoing work of her research group, Tibetscapes, is accessible at https://tibetscapes.wordpress.com/.
About the Chair
Dr. Nimmi Kurian is a Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Her research focuses on Asian borderlands and looks in particular at the intersections between capital and ecology, federalism and foreign policy, resources and rights. Dr. Kurian is a member of the External Advisory Board of the India China Institute, The New School, New York and has served on the Fellowship Committee of the China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme, Centre for China Studies, Ashoka University. She has held Fellowships from the India China Institute, The New School, New York and the Charles Wallace India Trust. Dr. Kurian has written and published widely on alternative spatial imaginations, a theme that is explored in detail in her two books, India-China Borderlands: Conversations Beyond the Centre (Sage, 2014) and India and China: Rethinking Borders and Security (co-author) (University of Michigan Press, 2016).
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