Sunday, May 15, 2016

Indians Are Not Allowed: Hotels in Majnu-Ka-Tilla

When Tibetans were not allowed to stay in Hotels in Beijing after the 2008 Beijing Olympic, Tibetans in Diaspora raised eyebrows and used different mediums of press and media to inform the world about this racial and ethnic discrimination against the Tibetans living in China. When Africans (black) were not allowed by a Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, Tibetans shared it on social media to support the local Africans against this race and color discrimination. But did Tibetans ever shared about how Tibetans treat Indians in India? Or did Tibetans ever care about how Tibetans (mis)treat Indians in India? This piece is not about China or Chinese but its about our own Tibetan people in diaspora. Of the two, the first purpose of writing this article is to provide a mirror that helps to reflect on the self.

The story begins almost a year ago. One of my American friend (hereafter Joe) who has a dark skin travelled to India for the first time with my another friend who is a Tibetan American (hereafter Tenzin). Since Tenzin was already in India, she booked another room for Joe at a well known Tibetan hotel in Majnu-Ka-Tilla (MT hereafter). When Joe landed and tried to check in at the hotel, the Tibetan receptionist told Tenzin in Tibetan language, "We don't rent rooms to Indians." Tenzin was completely shocked and told the receptionist that Joe is a US citizen and not Indian (though he looks like an Indian). After showing Joe's US passport, the receptionist allowed him to stay at the hotel.

Though there are certain behavior of Tibetans in Diaspora that raises question on the treatment of Indians such as keeping Indian minor as a household helper, this racial discrimination of Indian people by a group of privileged refugee in the capital of India was a heartbreaking experience. It's not only unlawful but also against the principle of equality and justice. At that point, I was hoping that it is just a handful of Tibetan hotels in MT.

Out of frustration, I did some inquiry and realized that no Indians are allowed to stay in any Tibetan hotels in MT. However, it seems there are exception to Indians who are well connected to Tibetan freedom movement or who comes with a group of foreigners.

After a couple of days, I inquired with the Tibetan Welfare Office in MT. I know that they will not respond to a straight-forward question. So, I created a scenario where one of my Indian friend from Bangalore is having a hard time to get a hotel in MT. The email response from the Tibetan Welfare Office confirmed that Tibetan hotels in MT do not allow Indians to stay (except Wangden Guest House). Below is the email response dated May 12, 2015.

"Regarding hotel booking issue Indian may be not allowed by the hotels because this colony is under land case issue since long and it is not regularized. However, Wangden Guest house will allow both Indian and foreighners to stay in their hotel. So in future, if you have such booking, do contact Wangden Guest House, you won't face any problem."

As far as I know, MT was regularized after it was named New Aruna Nagar in 2013.  However, the question is not about regularization.  It's about accommodating the people of India who owns the country.  When foreigners can stay, then why not Indian people? When Wangden Guest House can accommodate Indians, why not other hotels?

Some readers may find this piece uncalled for or unworthy for the wellbeing of Tibetan people as it highlights a darker side of the Tibetan Diaspora.  However, the piece is written with the hope that Tibetans can change before it is too late.   If an Indian media finds this discrimination in their own land by a select group of refugees, it will be a breaking news.  Indian media might use analogies such as how Gandhi was discriminated in South Africa and how Indians were not allowed in certain places by British with a display board, "Dogs and Indians are not allowed."

On a final note, Tibetans must treat everyone equally if they expects the same.  Tibetans cannot be telling the world about Chinese discrimination against Tibetans in Tibet and China when Tibetans themselves are a part of this discrimination. 

Thus, the second purpose of this article is to pass on the core message that sometimes it's necessary to clean our own houses first before telling others to do so.  The leadership in Dharamsala needs to wake up to initiate this house cleaning drive.

Update: A couple of days after publishing this article, I was informed by the Tibetan Welfare Office of MT that, "...we would like to inform you that we have called a meeting in July 2015 with the Hotel managers and staff along with Gyakpon in this matter that they should allow every one with proper id proof and not barred other nationals from booking in. Since then the hotels and Guest houses in the Colony are allowing booking from all people without condition. So we hope you are clear with this matter and would explain to your friends on this hotel booking issue."

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