But the increasing use of blackmail by a section of society in Ladakh is gradually emerging more of a pattern than an aberration. The goals are very clear but the methods being used for achieving these objectives are hurtful.
Leh emerged as a flashpoint well before the militancy broke out in Kashmir when the newly floated Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) launched a crusade against the Muslim minorities. For months together, hundreds of families were living far away from their homes under tight police guard near in total isolation. The social boycott was order of the day and many a businesses collapsed till the Home Minister S B Chawan intervened to reverse the trend that had hurt centuries of coexistence.
It was this agitation for secession of Ladakh from J&K that fetched Leh an autonomous hill development council in 1995. A year after when state legislature adopted the Lok Sabha legislation, devolution of powers started for the new entity. Almost a decade later it is this authority that is being used to marginalize the same minority community – a plain case of blackmail. It would have been ideal to use the powers for strengthening the institutions at local level, improving the harsh life of the people irrespective of their faiths and genes. The tourism driven prosperity in Leh should have been jointly shared. But unfortunately that is not the case.
The larger issue is that there is no respect for the system that has given LAHDC the authority to become master of its own destiny, by giving a fair share in the developmental funds, tax proceeds, jobs and resources. The tragedy is that LAHDC chairman’s car uses LAHDC flag and not the state flag – disrespect to the state legislature that constituted and empowered it.
Over the years, the tensions between the LAHDC and the state government in Srinagar or Jammu have been increasing. Many times in recent past LAHDC decided to have their own Independence and Republic day functions simply to convey that they are actually boycotting the official functions. At countless instances visiting dignitaries from the government were not received at all.
Leh can not afford a tension of any sort. Tourists come in hoards for almost three of the four quarters of the year. The armed forces have opened up and the growers are getting a better buyer at their door step. Apart from state money, and certain funds directly from Delhi, there are scores of NGOs getting good amount of funds to help alleviate the status of life. Leh is getting much greener over the years. Leh’s USP is not the noise but peace of soul and mind. Let the Shangri la not prove an utopia.