Thursday, June 20, 2024

Juley Ladakh


In sub-zero temperatures, Ladakh was excited when governor Satya Pal Malik’s administration decided to elevate the region’s status to a division. Everybody welcomed the decision, but nobody understands its urgency

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Source: Census of India

The one thing that makes an unelected government interestingly different is that it can take a major decision without actually waiting for the outcome of discussions and debates. It does not require even being accountable to the voters as political parties are fashionably talking about. That is what exactly the governor Satya Pal Malik did by creating a third administrative and revenue division in Ladakh. The decision came within days after Ladakh got a cluster university.

It is the day of Ladakh. It must be happy and has a right to be. It was seeking a Union Territory and BJP was committed to it. A few months ahead of the LokSabha elections it has got a division status.

It deserved the division status much earlier. In fact, when in 1989, Leh got the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), the murmurs of opposition in Kashmir’s political class were buried under the requirements that the region had, owing to its location, climate and economy.

Ladakh region may not be a direct victim of the strife that Kashmir is in for decades but the fact is that it is the initial product of the Great Games, the mother of the conflict in this region. The reality is that this agro-climatic zone was an entity within itself, at one point of time that would link Tibet to the Baltistan and to Leh. It was the desert eco-system that was not, unlike the twenty-first century Ladakh, delinked from the rest of the world for more than six months. It was a major market and Kashmir’s access to Central Asia. But the change in political geographies between Lhasa and Turtuk, post world war II, has changed the region forever. Even though the region is home to one of the world’s most prestigious highways and a potential trade centre, the CPEC, it plays host to one of the world’s freezing war theatres, the Siachen glacier.

The elevation of twin-district Muslim majority region to a division was a demand for a long time. The reasons were compelling: vast geography, much bigger than the rest of the state with barely a population density of three individuals per square kilometre, was remaining cut off from all land routes for almost six months. Its culture is unique and requires preservation. The region is a linguistic class in itself. It has a different economy because its agriculture is linked to its peculiar weather system. Off late, tourism is emerging a major economy of the region though it is still limited to Leh.

Unlike Jammu or Kashmir, which has formal and informal borders with Pakistan, Ladakh has borders running with China, Pakistan and partly Tibet. After the Kargil war, Leh is home to 14 Corps where a Major General overlooks the Line of Actual Control (LoAC).

Ladakh has been a late entrant to the race of development and education. At one point of time, the teachers from Srinagar would be sent to Ladakh for three years to impart education in the region. Now, it has phenomenally improved. Now it is home to scores of scholars and the literacy rates are perhaps better than Kashmir and Jammu.

Kashmir political class has welcomed the development. But what makes it suspicious is that the governor’s administration has ignored the two similar demands from Chenab Valley and the Pir Panchal valley. Perhaps the reason is the election. Bjp in this region had won the Lok Sabha seat by a sender margin. A few years in the LokSabha, the MP resigned from the party. Malik’s decision is obvious appeasement to the region. A political government could have taken the decision with a lot of peoples’ involvement in the two other regions. But BJP is in hurry; it is actually the inauguration or the foundation laying time.

Omar Abdullah said the two other divisions would be created if he becomes the Chief Minister. “Although Leh and Kargil already have Hill Development Councils, we welcome the decision to grant a division status to Ladakh,” Mehbooba Mufti said. “But I fail to understand what is the intention behind ignoring Chenab Valley and Pir Panchal regions. These are remote areas, the terrain is hilly and the population is much larger.” She said the BJP was supportive of Ladakh division but unwilling to support the other two.

But recognising the regions in a talk that has been on the table of many people on two sides of the Redcliff divide. Even Parvez Musharaf talked about it and only after that talk, Pakistan quickly understood the crisis in Gilgit and Baltistan. Now this region has elected assemblies that take decisions on a daily basis.

Prior to that, the Regional Autonomy committee of the NC had identified the sub-regions and suggested the creation of an elected system to end the discrimination bogey. The reaction to that report was harshly communal.

It was around that time when the then Home Minister Indrajit Gupta came to Srinagar insisting trifurcation of the state is one best way to manage it. Dividing the state into three pieces has been an old idea about reducing the geography of the dispute.

This precisely is the riddle: which side the BJP is so keen to make happy? Or is there something different in the Sangh mindset?

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