Born in Surtso, a village in Tibet bordering Nepal, Mr. Ngodup Dongchung spent his early childhood in a semi-nomadic family. In 1959, following the hundreds of Tibetans fleeing across the border, his family journeyed to Solukhumbu, Nepal. One of the first Tibetan settlements in the diaspora, Solukhumbu became the place of temporary respite as the International Red Cross Society and the Nepal government helped the newly arrived Tibetan refugees to survive and adjust.
Under the vision of the newly formed Tibetan government in exile headed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Indian government offered to set up separate Tibetan schools called Central School for Tibetans (CST). In 1963, around the age of 9-10, along with his siblings, he once again set foot and left Nepal while his parents stayed behind with the hope of returning to Tibet. On his arrival in India, he was sent to Dalhousie, a small hill station in North India where he studied at CST.
After spending 10 years as a boarding student at CST Dalhousie, Mr. Dongchung completed high school in the early 1970s. Similar to many first-generation Tibetan refugees who aspired to be the first in their families to get a university education, he left the northern Himalayan town of Dalhousie with the other graduates for the capital, New Delhi. For the next three years, he studied political science at Ramjas College in Delhi University.
After graduating from college in 1977, and still in his early twenties, Mr. Dongchung decided to move to Dharamsala—another small town in Himachal Pradesh, where the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile, had set up its base—to serve the cause of Tibet. On June 15, 1977, he was assigned to the Department of Security as an assistant office secretary, thus beginning his life as a public servant.
Few years after the Cultural Revolution ended, the 1980s marked a period when China began to slowly open up. In 1983, under the directive of the CTA Department of Security’s then secretary, the late Mr. Jampa Kalden la, Mr. Ngodup Dongchung undertook a covert mission to Lhasa, Tibet. While living under anonymity, he met with many Tibetan underground resistance groups to collect intelligence on the situation of Tibetans inside Tibet. At a time when information across the borders was difficult to reach, he contributed to opening up new channels of communication between the CTA and Tibetans living inside Tibet. Through this mission, he and the security department also established and maintained contacts with many Tibetans who contributed to the exile movement by providing valuable intelligence over the next few decades.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Security
- Undertakes responsibility for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s personal security, in the station, and while on domestic travels.
- Liaisons in advance with local Indian authorities to prepare for safe and secure facilities at different locations.
- Maintains security protocols through in-service training of officers.
- Organizes proper screenings and identifications at required venues.
- Recruits temporary local Tibetan volunteers to gain on-ground insight and counsel at different sites.
- Upgrades the 24-hour personal security in Dharamsala.
Rehabilitation of Refugees
- DOS started the reception center for newly arrived Tibetans from Tibet in Dharamsala in the 1980s with branch offices in Delhi and Kathmandu and maintains its staff and facilities.
- Provides logistical and legal support as well as any immediate public health needs at the reception center.
- Since 2005, created a special entry permit program to allow Tibetans to gain legal entry and get RC on arrival in India.
- Works in cooperation with institutions such as monasteries and schools to facilitate new opportunities in exile.
- Coordinates with UNHCR, the Nepalese government and the Indian government.
- Initiated an adult educational school called Sherab Gatseling in the early 90s, which is now under the DOE.
Registration Certificate and Dharamshala Branch Office
- Registration Certificate (RC) is equivalent to a conditional resident card that allows Tibetans to legally live in India. Any Tibetans over the age of 16 are required to make one.
- Handles the bureaucratic and administrative hurdles refugees face by assisting them with RC registration and renewal processes.
- Liaisons with the Foreign Registration Office (FRO) of Dharamshala Police to facilitate legal processes such as Exit Permit (required for Tibetans to leave India) and Return Visa.
- Organizes and coordinates His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s public audience with foreigners and the Himalayan community in Dharamsala.
Research and Analysis Center
- The center was created by the Department of Security in the 1970s, when information from Tibet and China was scarce.
- Translated necessary information and communicated with CTA as well as the public through English and Tibetan-language publications.
- In the 1980s, with a staff of 14-15 people, the center sourced and transcribed Tibetan and Chinese-language news from daily radio broadcasts.
- In 2011, the center was changed to the Tibet Policy Institute (TPI), a CTA-wide think tank open to outside researchers.
Outside of administrative duties, he helped to expand the intelligence infrastructure of DOS by establishing contacts in Tibet as well as maintaining cooperation with concerned Indian government offices.
Political Prisoners Rehabilitation Program
In the early 90s, following a visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Australia, the government agreed to take in Tibetan refugees under the Special Humanitarian Program.
Kasur Ngodup Dongchung, then the secretary of the security department, took leadership and responsibility over this program, through which hundreds of former Tibetan political prisoners and their families were able to resettle in Australia.
In the beginning, 30-50 people were sent each year. The number has now grown to 100-150 people per year. As of today, more than 1,000 Tibetans have been resettled in Australia.
There is a growing diasporic community of Tibetans living in Australia. This program ensures long-term security and stability for families who had sacrificed for the collective cause.
In 2007, after working for 30 years as a bureaucrat, he was nominated and elected as the Security Kalon in Professor Samdhong Rinpoche’s cabinet. In 2011, he served a second term as Kalon in the cabinet of SIkyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay. In both cases, a huge majority at the Tibetan parliament supported his nomination.
Under Samdhong Rinpoche’s cabinet, he proposed and developed an extension of RC policy from one to every five years. In 2012, this policy was greenlit by the Indian government and executed during Sikyong Lobsang Sangay’s first term.
In coordination with the Indian government, he worked to launch an online RC registration system that would eliminate the need for Tibetans to return to their place of registration for renewal purposes. This policy was later launched in 2018.
2016 – Present
Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
New Delhi, India
As His Holiness’s representative, he periodically meets and maintains relations with central Indian government officials, diplomats from various foreign embassies, as well as heads of different non-governmental organizations.
The Bureau also provides Identity Certificate services, i.e., the registration and extension of the travel document issued to Tibetans living in India.
Lastly, the Bureau facilitates both domestic and international travels of His Holiness and also organizes many Tibet-related events in Delhi.