Lessons Ladakh has delivered to us to learn

Didn’t we invent excuses to keep the region and its people out of the conscience of the state.
Lessons Ladakh has delivered to us to learn
File Photo of Ladakh

It is not hard to imagine which direction Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory has taken, and how it envisions its future. There are some very simple but at the same time very complex questions involved in this matrix, because here the metaphor of black and white and darkness and light have become indistinguishable. The people of J&K, once  a  privileged  class because of the status their place enjoyed, others called them as a pampered lot, are  trying to come to  terms with the new realities.

But an undeniable reality is that the erstwhile state is divided into two UTs – Ladakh is a different entity on the map today. J&K is counting its miles and density of the population in comparison to Ladakh  in terms of   area and population. Ladakh is having more area and  far less population. But when  political and  administrative decisions  are taken, these parameters become secondary to the agendas of the decision makers. For Ladakh, they had very strong reasons, because there was a demand from Buddhists of the land, and, of course, there was strong objection  to it by the majority population of Kargil district.

The fact of the day is that Ladakh will stay as a Union Territory. The finality of this status is very clear. This demand from Leh district where Buddhists are in an overwhelming majority had been  going on for long before it was recognised and delivered on August 5, 2019. Even the leaders of the erstwhile national parties, particularly Congress, and regional parties, National Conference and PDP in Leh were not happy with their status of pre-August 5, 2019; they were on record to have made it clear that they wanted separate UT for the region. They had their reasons to which they gave ample expression everywhere, though it also  is a fact that Kargil's majority population always wanted to be close to Delhi via Srinagar only.

Kargil, however  was never part of the  Kashmir conflict  that erupted in 1990, though there has been a persistent temptation in some  quarters to  drag  Kargil  to the conflict map of Kashmir. This was  an anomaly. Kargil, despite having its grievances  with the Centre is an  epitome  of Indian nationalism. Its differences and grievances with Srinagar were no less, but it always felt comfortable with the idea of being with Kashmir because of its  fear of domination by Leh. That has its own thesis.

But Kargil realised futility of its insistence on being isolated in the region. It had declined  to have a hill development council, when it was asked to emulate Leh in this regard way back in  the summer of 1995. The hill development council was given as a consolation prize to Leh for its demand for the UT.

Now Leh has got the both, Hill Development Council as District, and UT as part of the whole of the region. Kargil missed the bus. It realised the futility of its adamancy eight years later. It saw Leh progressing, while it was lagging behind in infrastructural development as also the human development. But it was quite late in the day.

It was only after the PDP-Congress government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed came to power in November 2002 that the people of Kargil were persuaded to have a hill development council. It finally became a reality in 2003 – a full loss of eight years. It has not covered that gap till date. And saner voices are advising that it should not court a path of further losses.

Here, there is another perspective which  sheds light why J&K was divided into two UTs. We are averse to admitting certain facts. Let's face it upfront. Did Ladakh figure as a region and integral part of the state that J&K was until August 5, 2019? Did the parties live up to their word of equitable development of all the three regions – there were more of complaints against one another than compliments. Did we care for their ethnic identity or identities as much we wanted ours to be taken care of ? Didn't we  invent excuses to keep the region and its people out of the conscience of the state.

Honestly speaking, we were treating Ladakh as a different and distanced land – remote in all senses of the word in our thinking and policy making. The leaders visited Ladakh in the times of war, tragedies or to simply for holidaying to enjoy  mesmerizing beauty of the cold region. There  was no strategy to keep Ladakh in the embrace. Much could have been done, but that wasn't done for partisan politics.

Ladakh has served a lesson, we must learn something from it.

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