No complacency in Ladakh

By K.N. Pandita

Effusive concern expressed by the national and state leadership on  unpredicted natural calamity in Ladakh in which enormous landslide washed away rare agricultural land last year has, at the end of the day, turned into damp squib. The Prime Minister visited the site and assured the victims of the calamity that his government would do more than what was needed to mitigate the suffering of the people. He wanted it to be done before the harsh winter of the Himalayan range set in. His visit was followed by that of the Home Minster, who was equally effusive about what his ministry intended to do to reclaim the agricultural land since it was the only substantive means of livelihood for the people of this mountainous region that remains landlocked for at least half of the year owing to the closure of link roads under heavy snow. Of the promised over 16 crores of rupees to be provided for reclamation of the agricultural land, only a peanut of 1.5 crores have been released by the state government so far. The Ladakh Development Hill Council took the initiative and began the work on reclamation in the hope that funds promised would come at proper time and the task would be finished as early as possible. 

But bureaucratic bottlenecks, excessive and intricate red-tape procedures, apathy on the part of the government and center’s pre-occupations with the Kashmir valley only out of the three regions of the state, all combined to deprive the victims of cloud burst tragedy in Ladakh of the aid promised to them. These instances of covert or overt negligence on the part of the state government serve fuel to the complaints of discrimination of Jammu and Ladakh regions, something which a sensitive state government could easily avoid. Fully aware of harsh climatic conditions and the topography of Ladakh, the Union and the State governments should have been more than alert to rush funds for rehabilitation of the affected people.

The story of discrimination against Ladakhi Buddhists has never been told in full. No scholar from the disciplines of history, social science, environment, economics or political science has ever attempted to bring to light the overall picture of the region and the ways and means how the economy, life standard and full exposure of the people of the region could be improved. There has been a sporadic cry of making Ladakh a tourist spot but what actually has been done and what investments have been made to realize that ambition is hardly documented. The status of LDHC was granted to the region after much reluctance and much heartburn. But its functionality has been crippled by adopting close-fisted attitude in regard to releasing adequate funds for development and even the annual allocations made in the budget. There is almost negligible representation of Ladakhi Buddhists in government services especially in Secretariat Cadre. For example in 1997-98, one Christian, 3 Muslims and 23 Buddhist candidates cleared KAS/KPS examination. But while the lonely Christian and all the 3 Muslim candidates were appointed in state service, only one out of 23 successful Buddhist candidates was absorbed. Out of about 3500 Secretariat Cadre Employees, there is none from among the Ladakhi Buddhists. The number of state employees in the year 2000 is reported to be 3.58 lakh, about 1.04 lakh of them recruited only during the regime of Farooq Abdullah. Only 319 were from Ladakh which makes just 0.31 per cent of the total strength of state employees. About seven thousand Ladakhi students stand enrolled in various educational institutions in Jammu city. There is no social institution raised either by the government (Social Welfare Department) or by the civil society of Jammu (NGOs) to provide some elementary facilities to these young students pursuing their studies like proper accommodation on reasonable rent, special medical assistance, just and reasonable tuition fee, adequate scholarships, opportunities for employment, travel facilities and cultural expositions etc. They remain almost segregated because of lack of facilities for developing composite cultural traits.

It has to be reminded that about 1600 km long border of India lies with Ladakh. Keeping in mind the strategic importance of this border region, it will be total intransigence to neglect the people living there and having likeness for India. This is despite their ethnic, linguistic and cultural affinity with the Tibetans and Eastern Xingjian province of China. Chinese troops have been making forays into the Indian Territory in Ladakh and they have been indulging in subversive activities. Eastern parts of Ladakh comprise India’s frontline border with China. The role of Ladakhis during the Kargil war is appreciable. All this is a strong argument that the Union government should pay special attention to Ladakh and intervene in matters that are crucial to the security and integrity of the country. No complacency has to be tolerated in the case of development of Ladakh.

Hurriyat (M) at crossroad:

Friday sermon of Hurriyat (M) chief Mirwaiz was classical example of confusion and incoherence. The “crossroad” where his organization stands today is no crossroad at all but only a one-track road leading to abject uncertainty. India is not only the second biggest military power in the world as Mirwaiz said, He would do well to know that it is also the home to second largest number of Muslims in the world. There is no external or internal conspiracy to break Mirwiaz’s organization; his abject servitude to external mentors is bound to shred the organization. Extirpated Maulavi Abbas Ansari made the point when he said that after being shown the door from Hurriyat, he is enjoying the freedom of speaking. Previously Abdul Ghani Lone, too, had spoken of incompetence of the Hurriyat to make any headway. Departure of Ali Shah Geelani’s faction, too, has its parameters. And the Mirwaiz wants “exposing” the culprit in Maulana Showkat’s murder case. Situation shows that it is he who got exposed in the process.  He is unable to bring out mass rallies on the streets of Srinagar for fear of being exposed further. It is his organization that needs to be exposed, and earlier Prof. Ghani Bhat did it in part. It is not the mindset of killers of Maulana Showkat that needs to be cured; it is the mindset of those in Kashmir who are unwilling to give a call to the gun-wielding youth to bid farewell to arms and return to the path of peace that needs to be cured. Ali Shah Geelani recently exuded assurance of security to Kashmiri Pandits. He had no need to do so if he had instead issued an appeal to the gun-wielding youth to give up the gun that would have resulted in the security forces and army returning to barracks and ordinary Kashmiri saved the “oppression and suppression”. But alas Geelanis and Mirwizs have their axe to grind; they have not the good and safety of the people of Kashmir in their mind. They are frustrated with the organization and a bad master quarrels with his tools.

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