Right to the City – Case of Tibetan Refugees


  • Niyanta Muku World Monuments Fund
  • Debayan Chatterjee BDP Design Engineering Pvt. Ltd.
  • Suzanne Frazier Morgan State University




The Tibetans have a long history in post-independence Delhi. The first group in flight from Tibet entered Indian Territory in 1959, when then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to provide refuge to the Tibetans in exile. The Tibetan community that has been growing within the city of New Delhi since it was allotted a piece of land, today known by the name of Majnu-ka-tila, is on the verge of becoming a ghetto (The Tibetans formed a voluntary territorialized ghetto, but after the Indo-Sino relations strained giving them refugee status and further discriminatory planning measures, they formed a more intensive ghetto in order to form insulation against the authorities). This situation in its entirety brings us to the threshold of examining their Right to the City (Lefebvre H., 1968). This study documents the development of and examines the current conditions of this case of the Tibetan ethnic minority in New Delhi and their urban segregation within the city fabric: specifically, the formation of micro-states, minority neighborhoods, fortified enclaves, and also illegal settlements. Despite having lived in Delhi for more than 50 years, they still live and function autonomously and are therefore seen as a disenfranchised group in the city. This contemporary case study examines the situation via the lens of Wirth (1998) et al in order add an Asian context to ghettoization to the history of global metropolises particularly in light of today’s forced migrations across the globe.


David Harvey, Right to the City, 2006

Saskia Sassen, Whose city is it? Globalisation and the Formation of new claims, Public Culture, 1996

Caldeira T 2000 City of Walls: Crime, Segregation and Citizenship in Sao Paulo. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

“Ghetto.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Edited by Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes. London: Pergamon Press, 2004,


How to Cite

Muku, N., Chatterjee, D., & Frazier, S. (2016). Right to the City – Case of Tibetan Refugees. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(5). https://doi.org/10.7480/iphs.2016.5.1679