The world is peppered with peoples that claim descent from the "Lost Tribes" of Israel (see this link for the seemingly never-ending parade of contenders) that were exiled over two and a half millenia ago by Assyria’s King Nebuchanezzar. As one site puts it:
Scholars have claimed to discover their descendants in North and South America, England, China, Japan, Burma, Africa, Arabia, Persia, Central Asia, and Siberia, among other places.
And then there are the various New Age and/or Afrocentric identity groups like the Rastafarians and the Black Israelites.
Who knows, maybe you’re a latterday Israelite, yourself. Those lost tribes seem to have really gotten around.
The case of the Bnei Menashe community in Mizoram and Manipur–states in India’s
troubled northeastern tribal areas bordering Burma and Nepal–is
intriguing, as it appears to be one of the first instances that I’m aware of of
a claim to being "lost" Jews being accepted by Israel (*) and citizenship being granted accordingly.
They’re not the only South Asian claimants (though they might be the only ones who are actively lobbying for the status). The Kashmiri claim has gotten a lot of attention, and there are also suspicions that there are Pathan tribes with Israelite blood The Kashmiris even boast a tomb that has long been believed by
locals–and even some outsiders, especially in New Age spirituality
circles (e.g., Holger Kerstein)– to be the final resting place of Jesus Christ (as).
These other claims are a lot more messy. Whereas the Bnei Menashe number only 6,000, there are millions of Kashmiris and/or Pathans to whom this might apply. Then there’s the Kashmiris’ accompanying belief in the arrival of and eventual burial of the Messiah, a matter that Jews can be quite understandably touchy about. And the idea of Muslim Jews probably isn’t very appealing to the authorities.
* I don’t place the Falashim/Olim of Ethiopia under this rubric, as they claim to have arrived earlier during the reign of Solomon, if I’m not mistaken. And I think that the Russian Jews that have been imported to give Israelis demographic reinforcements vis-a-vis their more fertile Palestinian neighbors are categorized simply as normal Jews (however dubious that claim may be in some cases).
In a bizarre twist, Black Israelites were recently granted Israeli citizenship. This is rich given how they’ve been accused of anti-Semitism in the past.