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Letters to the Editor
It's sad as well as comical to hear/read a fellow Tibetan say that "For the first time in I don't know how many years I am inclined to agree fully with Jamyang Norbu" as Senge Rabten writes in his letter.
Rangzen, our country's history, Accountability of our exile government, respect for Free Speech, I imagine may not be their cup of tea, these have always been the focal point in Jamyang la's writings and talks.
As for the question on Kundun's security,despite all our deep concerns, there appears to be a stampede among all the groups and individuals wailing their outrage,the cynical side of me makes me question their motives... is it genuine concern or a classic Tibetan suck up!
Bush Jr, Manmohan Singh, Wen Jaibo and many other world leaders with all their security have faced a lot worse than a frail inji nun uttering nonsense, on this point Senge Rabten should know better.
By Senge Rabten (New York, March 6, 2014)
For the first time in I don't know how many years I am inclined to
Jamyang Norbu had mentioned in his article titled, "The Sad Painful Joke of Tibetan Democracy." To me the title 'Kalon tripa' does not at all sound grandiloquent as JN had said. In fact, it sounds a little diluted if not timid that resonates a little religious tone or Gandhen Phodrang since it's an offshoot of Gandhen Tripa, the holder of Gandhen throne. The word Lonchen is more apt such as Shatra Lonchen, our prime minister during the 13th Dalai Lama's time or Druk Lonchen the prime minister of Bhutan. Lonchen succinctly jibes with the English language: Chen for prime and lon for minister. Today the title Sikyong is more appropriate for our virtual prime minister in CTA or TGiE, meaning Central Tibetan Administration or Tibetan Government in Exile; a government not recognized by the international body. So, where is the grandiloquence with the Kalon Tripa title?
In the last couple of months, I was a little chagrined with all the sass and razzmatazz without much pizzaz in the peaceful sanctuary of Dharamshala, nestled in the mountains in Himachel Pradesh. Tibetan Parliament in Exile was severely criticized for its denunciation of its member Karma Choephel, and subsequent rebuttals by JN and Tibetan Political Review (TPR), etc. The cast consists of Jamyang Norbu (JN), Chithu Karma Choephel, our North American Chithue Norbu Tsering and other members of the parliament.
In retrospect, when I contemplate about the whole thing I no longer feel that bad. This new change of heart is certainly reinforced by the notion that eternal bickering is the price of democracy. Hence, all the bickering, finger-pointing and mud-slinging go in tandem with democracy across the globe. It's also a clear indication that there is "tamjod rangwang" or freedom of speech. No wonder China is leery of western type of democracy, with many projects getting bogged down in marathon debates about the merits and the demerits of a project and so on. And, somewhere there we, too, are getting distracted in our pursuit of freedom and justice in our baby-stepping democracy. However, involvement by all in our struggle to rectify our short comings, is necessary in a democratic environment in line with the maxim that action speaks louder than words.
Some have complained that there's no democracy without two parties, profoundly designed to articulate the truth. In the West we are entitled to many parties and freedom of speech but the question is who is listening or hearing when an individual has grievances? The answer is nobody. In our case of fledgling democracy in diaspora if one has a grievance, the subject could literally vociferously yell to Sikyong or the Kashag through the windows at the CTA offices in Gangchen Kyishong. Or, stand with a placard in hand with written grievances near the CTA offices. You do that in western democratic states without permit, you will be locked up. Democracy is never fluid, particularly in its early stages as it is the case in many Arab States in the Middle East and north Africa. In Egypt's case Mohamed Morsi who was popularly elected was booted out on July 3, 2013 and is under house arrest. And, caged like a zoo animal during trials just like Hosni Mubarak.
JN has touched about democracy in sovereign Bhutan but this beautiful kingdom of six hundred thousand citizens has its own problems to deal with. Just to mention one of the problems is that Bhutan now has 50 young citizens with pilot licences but the problem is it has only four planes. That's Bhutan's headache. Bhutanese democracy aside, our Chithue Karma Choephel seems to be fixated with Desig Monlam prayers "Words of Truth Prayer," written by His Holiness over a half century ago. Please come down to earth. This is 21st century and there are too many important issues that need to be tackled by members of our parliament rather than getting too consumed by the prayer wordings.
It's not only you had erroneously misinterpreted Kundun's feelings, but you did it with an air of arrogance and defiance. Please don't mix religion and politics since Kundun had timely separated religion from our political endeavors and devolved his authority. You seem to be a religious person and it's obvious that you are still entangled in the 'choesi nyidhen'(church and state) mode. So, please reboot and refresh yourself. And if possible, vacate your seat after twenty six years of your service. That would be swell and, serendipitously, it will ensconce you in a comfy zone to pursue your religious practices. What better way to retire for a devout person.
Many chithues' scathing words against Karma seem nothing more than venting out their displeasure, but the whole thing was done in a formal ambiance conforming to standards of propriety, unlike in other global parliaments where members scuffle, exchange blows, throw chairs and objects at each other -- and what not in raucous showdowns -- paling the Thrilla in Manila or the Mike Tyson-Hollyfield thriller. There's none of that in Dharamshala.
However, Norbu Tsering's diatribe was a little abrasive and I believe it was more emotional than anything else; perhaps a reflection of feelings of Tibetans in the Toronto area as well as in the US, since he represents north American Tibetans. The reduction of Kundun's living age is strictly in Tibetan Buddhist context and he should not have coo cooed about it to any outside members in politics because it wouldn't make any sense in the political arena. Over time he will learn and get more seasoned as we all err and learn from our mistakes. That's what life is; a continuous learning process till the day we die.
To liken Chithues' reprimand on Karma to 'thamzing' to mini-Cultural Revolution in Dharamshala is preposterous. I have attended thamzing sessions in Tibet. I can still recite some thamzing lines and communist songs of the Great Leap Forward period. Thamzing during the dark years of the Cultural Revolution was so vicious China's top revolutionary figures like Liu Shao-chi and Peng Dehuai died as a result of severe beatings, while Liu's Mrs. Wang Guangmei managed to survive. You stated as to how did our politics degenerate to this to septic-tank low. Well, your brazen distortion of facts and malicious attacks against our establishments though not run well enough to satisfaction, stink like septic tank.
JN might not have been rude at all to Kundun when he was not in favor of MWA since that's one's democratic right. However, at times he did seem disrespectful of Kundun, when he had stated in the past that Kundun should be joining the crowds in the streets during protests and demonstrations, etc. This statement is bizarre if not obtuse in today's geopolitical climate when we in diaspora are subject to host country's cues, and our concerns for visa procurement for Kundun when visiting foreign cities and lot more. It's just common sense, come on.
Add to this an article in Newsweek by JN few years back that banyan tree gives good shade but not much grows under it. The Dalai Lama is the banyan tree meaning not much grows under the leadership of our most precious, the great 14th Dalai Lama. How callous, delusional, ungrateful and un-Tibetan of him. To use your term, this is the classic case of lowering oneself from the highest peak to the gutter. It is the Dalai Lama who has carried us thus far in his struggle for our cause, and has received a slew of accolades, Nobel Peace Prize, Congressional Gold Medal, and many more. As of last June His Holiness is the most popular leader in the world, even superseding Barack Obama, according to polls taken in the free world in June, 2013. His prestige has spanned from the Arctics to Tierra de Fuego, and from Machapuchare to Machu Pichu.
JN also took something in its literal sense when there was a statement that we have much to gain from China since we are a land-locked nation. Our adversary is more receptive to such lines instead of lines well thought out with reason, reality and facts to which they would turn a deaf ear. He jumps the gun on it, and perhaps is now a little gun shy after this revelation. This logic is emphatically confirmed by a seasoned Tibetan, who had worked under the communist system in Tibet.
And, JN's incessant hurling insults and scathing accusations of our past TGiE Kalons, and our Chithue Tsogtso (Speaker of the Parliament) in very derogatory language during the RAF drama was despicable. Our patriots like the late Panchen Lama, Baba Phuntsog Wangyal are labelled as collaborators. Among the many non-Tibetans, he has criticized are Miss Libby Liu of RAF, Wang Lixiong (Woeser's husband), Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore who was instrumental in gaining independence for Singapore in 1965, and making S'pore one of the most dynamic countries in the world along with the Scandinavian countries. Lee Kuan Yew is often consulted by Beijing on foreign affairs, Man Mohan Singh for economic developments in India, and Dr. Kissinger in Southeast affairs. When one brazenly criticizes some of these figures, one's making a mockery of himself, and in the process devaluing one's standing in the community.
Similarly, we also had/have our share of disgruntled malcontents in the US. Somewhere in early stages of their life something negative had happened, resulting in not making it in life. Consequently, they don't quite fit in with society, and resort to taking cheap potshots at establishments, a classic trait mark of such crackpots. Sometimes a little destructive like the Symbioses Liberation Army, the Black Panthers, The Red Guards, etc. from 1969 - 1972, clustered mainly in the Bay Area. They were the trash of society and losers in life.
However, JN shines best when he writes about Tibetan history, plays, our tsampa and Losar khabses, et al; that's his niche. And, the best is when he goes like a Tibetan dogkyi (drokyi or mastiff) after foreign running dogs of Beijing for distorting our history, in hopes of gaining some favorable concessions or monetary incentives from the new emperors of China. However, the danger with dogkyi is that it will roar and attack anyone except the one that feeds it. So, beware. As such, when in my mind I juxtapose JN with Melvin Goldstein, Goldstein doesn't seem that bad after all.
Our youths in the West, are relatively well educated and informed but I'm not sure how well they are acquainted with our history and current status quo. In the early '70s, particularly in the '60s premed students in the college campuses were regarded as either geeks, or nerds. Today this no longer holds true. A recent article in The New York Times reports that today both Stanford and Harvard are experiencing sharp declines in student enrollments in Humanities. Most are interested in studying STEM: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics. So, that's today's trend but our scenario is a little different, and it's crucial that some of our Tibetan students take up some liberal arts subjects, even if they are science majors.
Incidentally, I'm very impressed with the activities of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). To me SFT also stands for Students First Team. They are not so much of talk but all walk. Kudos to you patriots for executing with efficiency and persistent perseverance, in fighting for our cause without getting mired in useless criticism of others, who are doing their utmost to elevate our standing in diaspora against many odds. Keep up the good job. You are a source of pride and inspiration.
As for TYC there's not much to say except that TYC was started in 1970 with high ideals and objectives. Over the years it has metamorphosed into something that is not very conducive for our cause. For instance, about four years back notice was served that it was organizing huge protests in Delhi. Large number of our folks from different parts of India went to Delhi for the occasion but to their utter dismay once they got there, there was nobody from the TYC board to instruct them. It was a fiasco. To further tarnish its reputation, His Holiness had to personally apologize to some personnel from the US Embassy for TYC and others for fraudulent visa applications and what not. Indeed, this is embarrassing and pathetic.
My experience with Tibetan Political Review has been positive. I believe theirs is a collective initiative on the part of volunteer editors endeavoring toward an independent homeland, and execute it in a civilized way aligned with democratic principles. In the past I had e-mailed articles to TPR during the 2011 elections and also on MWA, and they posted all. However, I cannot say the same thing when it comes to Phayul which for some reason has not posted my past articles except for one. That posting was facilitated by a third party. Phayul editor would not even post my pieces on JN in the comment section. This is sad. Articles on Phayul hailing freedom of speech and rangzen linger for eons, and yet I get censored every time. Is it a case of cognitive cacophony or what?
I'm a fervent Middle Way fan and those who clamor for rangzen -- that's your prerogative in a free democratic society. It would be meaningful if rangzenpas could come up with either a road map or blueprint instead of aimlessly beating the rangzen drum ever so loudly. So far I haven't come across any meaningful rangzen proposal with the exception of a certain Milarangzen who had sagaciously come up with his proposal, highlighted by facts, statistics, maps and clarity. That's what we need. I thought it was very realistic in today's political climate. Even though an Umava, I found the the pitch highly enticing.
Now we have reached a critical juncture in our collective endeavors in seeking justice and freedom. Nascent introduction of TNC, I believe is done with the best of intention but to be associated with JN maybe a judgmental miscarriage, I believe. JN's antics go contrary to Andrug Gompo Tashi's ways for Andrutsang was a fervent believer of Kundun to whom he had graciously offered Mendrel Tensum. He was a very respectable, selfless martyr who had sacrificed everything for our collective cause. He was also a very sensible man for when the final Chinese assault became so massive in March 1959, he sought refuge along with his warriors instead of ordering his men for a Kamikaze showdown with the pursuers. If Angrutsang were living today he would have dissociated with JN because G.T. was a very devout Dharmaist with immense reverence for His Holiness. It's possible some of today's youth might be swayed by JN's sugarcoated lies mixed with some truth under the rangzen veil.
As for JN he went to Lo or Mustang supposedly to fight. Did you know he went there with two heavy satchels of novels loaded on a mule, as he had stated on YouTube? Have you ever heard of anyone going to the frontiers to fight with a mule laden with books? Here it's important to remember Abraham Lincoln's quotation, "You can fool some people sometimes, and some prole all the time but you can't fool all the people all the time." In the '60s we called him Sonam Paljor which he later changed to Jamyang Norbu. What kind of norbu is he? Perhaps, he now may want to change it to Jamyang Lhejin.
Chewang Ngokhang (Ajo Che)
I am not a hard core follower of Rangzen or the middle path but hard core believer in two things, vision of His Holiness for Tibet and that the Dharamsala administration or TPIE is our legitimate representative and supporting it and not ridiculing it is in our best interest.
Looking at the exile Parliament’s actions against Karma Chophel is one thing but stretching it thus far by TPR in the above note, including invoking Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of expression and opinion, is another matter. For all practical purpose, Tibetans are in India as stateless and Dharamsala is not the capital of Independent Tibet.
Especially when TPR writes “The TPiE’s actions are a step backwards for Tibetan democracy in exile and free speech.” Or that it ”caused some Tibetans in the exile community to be extremely reticent in expressing any criticism of the CTA’s policies for fear that others will paint them as anti-Dalai Lama”, it is misleading. Criticizing CTA’s policy logically cannot be construed as anti-Dalai Lama but criticizing the Dalai Lama himself by quoting his own composition is anti-Dalai Lama.
We all know that thirty nine years ago we all followed Rangzen. But keeping in view various political, social, religion and international conditions, TGIE, by a referendum and resolution of the TPIE adopted the middle path policy. There is no dispute in that.
I think, the problems arises when Karma Choephel tried to interpret His Holiness’s mind by quoting his prayer composition written way back in 1960s and justifying his stand for Rangzen , which is wrong. Even otherwise also, unless one’s wisdom is at the level of Manjushree, it is not easy for ordinary beings like us, no matter whatever degree or post on held, to interpret the heart of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Karma Choephel, with whom I studied together, is a hard core disciple of His Holiness and his letter of apology speaks his heart. I am sure, he must have tendered his apology, to His Holiness, realizing his mistake and not under fear or pressure. The Chairman of TPIE, has done a commendable job by bringing the matter to an amicable situation in the exile parliament and deserves my full appreciation. The matter should have ended there. It will not help our cause either by demonizing Karma Choephel or ridiculing the TPIE further.
I agree with TPR’s statement “It is unacceptable that the TPiE used His Holiness’ name to attack Karma Chophel, particularly without a thorough investigation into the facts” but I equally believe that it is unacceptable to use or misuse the name of His Holiness for the promotion of idea of Rangzen.
I normally admire TPR’s balanced review on various issues and hope this believe will continue. We have many more urgent things that needs attention. Let us move further.
We appreciate Jamyang Dorjee la's well-informed views. However our editorial was not about the propriety of interpreting what His Holiness has said (in fact we previously discussed Chitue Jamyang Soepa doing the same thing in a similar context).
Our editorial was squarely about the propriety of our Tibetan parliament spending an entire day engaging in an embarrassing spectacle against a sitting Chitue, simply for expressing his views (whether one agrees with them or not). We did not, and we do not, believe this was a helpful development for the young Tibetan democracy that we all care about.
By Zamlha Tempa Gyaltsen (Dharamsala, India)
Respected Editor of Tibet Political ReviewI have been reading most of your editorial article but since 2011 election victory for Lobsang Sangay, you seem overtly obsessed with him.
I appreciate the earlier piece titled If Not Deficit Then What Do You Call This Year's Budget? by Sangye Kunchok. The concerns raised by Sangye la are heartfelt. However, I do not agree with his statement that privatization of CTA’s businesses was a wrong path.
The problem with CTA owning businesses is that they will compete with Tibetan private sector development. History has shown many times that government owned businesses are more inefficient. This was one of the reasons why CTA businesses was privatized in the first place.
The real hope for CTA's economic security is when Tibetans become successful financially. When the structure changes where Tibetans are the ones supporting CTA rather than looking to CTA for financially support this will greatly relieve CTA's financial pressure.
Instead of getting into business, I believe CTA should continue to focus on their efforts to provide support to the private sector. This can be done by encouraging our foreign supporters to form joint ventures with Tibetan entrepreneurs in order to transfer expertise, provide access to capital and arrange training programs. As much as possible, CTA and our NGOs should constantly review to make sure that they are not an obstacle to the growth of our private sector but a catalyst.
I am aware that our Sikyong, Kashag and many within our community are greatly concerned about CTA's financial viability. From a pure financial standpoint the task is daunting.
Many of the current efforts of CTA like publicizing the gross human rights violation in Tibet, providing a home to the refugees fleeing Tibet and other administrative work are all non-incoming generating work. CTA by itself will never be able to generate enough income to support itself. Nor should they try as they would lose focus from their core mission.
Here I would give much credit to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ms. Jetsun Pema and many of our elders for not focusing on purchasing assets to secure Tibet's future but investing the maximum amount towards our education. The fruits of their investments can be seen by the promising current leadership with our community.
If we assume that since 1959 CTA received financial assistance from the Indian and United States government in the amount of $5 million per year, this would be approximately around $265 million for the last 53 years. If the aid currently gets cut, CTA will likely become like a car without gas.
Even if Tibetans in exile do not depend on CTA for financial support, it maybe still challenging for us to support all the expenses of CTA. Therefore it is critical that we continue to align our interest with both the United States and the Indian government. As long as our interests are aligned, there is a high probability that CTA will continue to receive the current amount of financial aid.
Finally for CTA to achieve her goal to bring freedom to Tibet I agree by the current efforts by our leadership to align our interests with the Chinese people. Unless we are able to bring greater understanding and support from the Chinese people it will be extremely difficult to achieve our goal whether genuine autonomy within China or independence.
By Sangay Taythi (Minneapolis, MN)
I am writing to publicly express that I am appalled by CTA's official television station's omission of Pawo Phagmo Dhondup's hand-written testament in their video news report from the 8th of May.
Voice of Tibet who had first broken its news, reported a day earlier that the 21-year-old who self-immolated on February 24 had left behind a hand-written testament with a friend that read:
Till now, over a hundred Tibetans in Tibet have set themselves on fire for freedom. They are the true martyrs of Tibet.
If Tibet does not get its freedom and independence, China will annihilate Tibetan culture and tradition.
This year, Chinese authorities have restricted studying Tibetan language in our Tibetan areas in Bayen and all teachers have been expelled from the region. I am really sad now.
Today on the night of the 15th day of the Tibetan New Year, I will set myself on fire in front of the debating grounds at the Jhakhyung Monastery.
Today is Tibetan Independence Day.
Phayul's report which came a day after CTA's television reportage also included the entire contents of Pawo Phagmo Dhondup's last words.
Of the 117 self-Immolations, there are only a handful of known hand-written testaments left by the Tibetan martyrs, all whose contents are either secretly scanned/photographed and sent to us (usually electronically) or conveyed via phone calls to Tibetan media or individuals.
If our brethren inside Tibet can sacrifice their lives for the Independence and Freedom of Tibet and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and if their brave friends and family members who despite severe risks of arrest, torture, imprisonment and even death by the Chinese authorities send such materials to us in exile and to people of the free world, then the least we can do for them is give them their dignity and honor their precious sacrifice by making public and amplifying their voices, fully, sincerely and transparently.
A mere 35-second summarized reportage which excluded much of our martyr's testament smeared shame on those of us from the government to NGOs to individuals who work in priority for the people of Tibet and the Tibetan freedom struggle.
The biggest injustice is when a martyr's last and final wishes for all Tibetans before sacrificing his life for our country is being silenced and muted!
By Dechen Tsering (Berkeley, CA).
Dear TPR Editorial Board:
I join Jamyang Dorjee-la in expressing gratitude for raising this topic. Thanks also to Maura Moynihan whose article on this topic was shared several weeks ago as well. A big DITTO to Jamyang la's points particularly on the usefulness of having Tibetan-Americans lobby for Tibet and the impact we can have on policy of our elected representatives in the States (and likewise in India and other countries).
Like many Tibetans in the US, I participated in the Tibet Lobby Day in 2010 after getting my US citizenship on March 10th (along with a few other Bay Area Tibetans). The significance of our swearing in ceremony was doubled by the fact that it was March 10th! I don't know about others, but in all my years of activism for Tibet, I have to confess that I have never felt as empowered and confident as on March 10th 2010!! In the morning, I got my US citizenship and with renewed vigor went straight to the March 10th protest in front of the Chinese Embassy and asserted with full force my new-found confidence as a Tibetan-American citizen with a sense of 'political protection' that is invisible to the eye but most certainly there psychologically!!
I have never felt 'less' Tibetan for having held citizenship of an adopted country and I think for those who purport the notion are encouraging a very unfortunate practice that does not serve our cause in the long-run. Perhaps I am missing something in their rationale and can see the value of that school of thought if we were in the early years of our exile life - but 50 years later, it feels like an outdated notion that a few in the top continue to promote as a policy for many Tibetans, particularly those in India/Nepal settlements. What makes this policy promotion that much worse is discovering the fact that those promoting are leaders who already have citizenships or a green signal into citizenship of an adopted country!! Why this discrepancy if the rationale behind holding onto one's RC/refugee status really stands ground morally for a Tibetan??
I agree with all those who say that this kind of thinking also traps our future generations. It creates a life of either having to live with no/minimal rights in one's adopted country, feeling of 'lesser-than' thus aggravating the sense of belonging or identify struggles common in our new generation, and/or having to lie/bribe to get documents.
Speaking from a personal experience, I feel becoming the citizen of an adopted country adds value to what I can do as a Tibetan rather than take away from my Tibetan-ness!
By Jamyang Dorjee.
am very grateful to the editorial board of the Tibetan political review
for raising this important issue for discussion and also good to know
the citizenship status of our Kalons. It will be good to know the
citizenship status of our members of the exile parliament also. I have
been talking about this for many years and I found that policy makers
do understand but not interested to take further action. In fact many
years ago, one of the members of the upper house of the Indian
Parliament from Sikkim Mr P.T.Gyamtso spoke about this issue on RFA [Radio Free Asia],
while he was on a tour in Washington DC and appealed to take up Indian
I am an Indian passport holder, served as a Joint Secretary, a state civil servant of the Indian State of Sikkim before serving TGIE for 12 long years and thereafter resigned. I would like to share some of my thoughts here. Unlike other parts of Tibetan settlements in India, Sikkim is restricted area and therefore, almost all Tibetans are born in India between January 26, 1950—July 1, 1987, and likely their children and therefore are legally Indian citizens from birth. Tibetans living in Gangtok, the metro town, realizes this and therefore enjoy all the facilities of a citizen including voter’s right, while Tibetans in Kunpheling settlement in the south of Sikkim are bound by the TGIE law and RC holders and therefore even do not possess ration cards! Yet, both the Tibetans in Gangtok and Kunpheling settlement participate equally in all the activities together and none are more or less Tibetan. I also served few years in Delhi and can say that registration of many Tibetans in the camp as voters in the Delhi assembly and hence opting for Indian citizenship has also played a vital role in the regularization of the Majnukatilla camp.
The success of the Tibet lobby day in the United States is a clear example of the usefulness of patriotic Tibetans with American citizen and how it can make positive changes in the policy of the country. India, so far, has been very kind as far as the humanitarian part is concerned yet not supportive to the cause of Tibet. Only a politically relevant group, with constitutional rights, can effect policy change in a democracy and Tibetans in India, while maintaining or strengthening our exile administrative system, within the law of the land, can make huge difference.
Since many of the exile policy makers, who are by and large, enlightened lot of the society, may have understood the merits and demerits of opting for citizenship and hence opted for Indian, USA, and Canadian citizenship must now be practical and allow the rest of the Tibetan, who are legally eligible for such rights to go ahead in a systemic manner.
is 50 years plus now in exile and the period of seeking humanitarian
assistance is over. If we have to seek political support from the
country we live in, it is important to use all the political tools
available and one of them is to opt for Indian citizen yet remain a