Worried about NRC, Buddhists in Bodh Gaya fear ‘difficult days’ ahead
Bihar has 25,453 Buddhists as per the 2011 Census, which is 0.02% of state’s population. Apart from this, there are thousands of Buddhists from other countries, who have been living here for over three- four generations.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 13:56 IST
Thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns in Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir and at other Buddhist sites in Bihar are anxious thinking about the upcoming life changes following the Parliament’s clearance of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).
Majority of them feel that Citizenship (Amendment) Act has paved way for the National Register for Citizens (NRC), which is likely to be implemented soon in every part of the country, and that the exercise (of the NRC) may put their status under threat and that they may get declared ‘illegal’ and ‘foreigner’ like what had happened to many in Assam.
The state has a population of 25,453 Buddhists as per the 2011 Census, which is 0.02% of state’s population. But apart from this, there are thousands of Buddhists from other countries, who have been living here for over three- four generations.
Nearly four dozen monasteries of the countries, including that of Thailand, Tibet, Burma, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Laos, Bhutan and Bangladesh are located in Bodh Gaya and each of these have been accommodating hundreds of monks and nuns.
“Nearly 80,000 Tibetans had followed Dalai Lama to our country through the Himalayas at that time and while many settled at Dharmashala in Himachal Pradesh, some also preferred to stay at Bodh Gaya. They have been here for over three to four generations. Also many among the generation, which migrated from Tibet, may no longer be alive,” Priyapal Bhante, a Buddhist monk at Bodh Gaya, said.
These families are now worried what would they do if asked to prove their status in the country. They might be in real trouble if asked to provide documents related to their forefathers and their lineage, he added.
“They have already been living a life of the refugees and have gone through the painful experience of dislocation and exodus and once again they have before them the threat of deportation due to the NRC exercise,” he said.
One can have the glimpses of the impact of this exercise in Assam, he added.
Bhante said that the Tibetans have already been facing problems at various levels. “Getting Indian passport has already been a herculean task for them. I know many Tibetans whose applications for passport were rejected by the competent authorities at passport office,” he said.
A senior Buddhist monk from Tibet, Tenzin Lama at Bodh Gaya said things are not yet clear about the status of Tibetans here. “There is an uncertainty over our status. If the situation allows, we may consider going back to Tibet,” he said.
Discussing the concentration of tourists in Gaya, Abhishek Kumar, DM, Gaya, said, “Bodh Gaya is an international city. And the Unesco World Heritage Site status given to the Mahabodhi temple has further enhanced its attraction at the global level. Last year, the place received 1,50,000 foreign tourists, who arrived here on tourist visa,” he said.
Mukesh Kumar, a Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation official at Bodh Gaya, said the population of Buddhists on tourist visa too is quite high at Bodh Gaya.
“Many of them have been here for over a decade,” he said.