"We lost our homeland once. We don't want to lose our homes for a second time and become refugees again," says 60-year-old Rinchen Tsering from Buddh Vihar, a packed Tibetan settlement on the city's northern fringes.
The recent eviction order against Majnu ka Tilla and Buddh Vihar residents, the oldest and most prominent Tibetan settlements in Delhi, has landed the community in a sticky situation.
The residents know that they stand little chance before a "grand government project" but they are yet to come to terms with a possible eviction after having staying there for more than five decades.
Most residents find themselves in a desperate position since their livelihood is also at stake. "Most of us have shops and guesthouses here. We have invested a lot in the place," asks Norbu Namgyal, who runs a restaurant in Majnu Ka Tila.
Norbu Dhondup, who works as an accountant with the Tibetan SOS Youth Hostel in Rohini, breaks down at the mention of eviction. "It is tough for people like us who have seen the community grow before our eyes. It was so tough back then. Are we to face the tough times again? As it is we have fewer rights as refugees. Will these rights also be snatched away from us?"
Most of them demanded that the community be relocated. Since the Tila and Buddh Vihar were "authorised" Tibetan settlements, the Tibetans think they should be given a separate space if they are evicted from here. "We don't want to stand in the way of the government, but we should at least be given another settlement if not another source of income," Thupten Rinchen, who works for the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, said.
There have been talks with the MCD authorities and government officials for the drive to be postponed for sometime. "Our welfare office has talked to the MCD authorities and the government. The response has been positive. We are unsure what lies ahead, but we can't afford to lose hope," he says.