Ladakh demands UT status- J & K division only solution

  • By Hari Om
  • 15 December 2009

Ladakh & the struggle for integration                                             
A brief description  of what Ladakhis have been doing for political empowerment is in order. The  political history of post-1947 Ladakh could be legitimately considered as the  history of the rise of nationalism and integration with New Delhi. As a matter  of fact, nationalism became their watchword, their battle-cry, with the highly  revered Buddhist Kushok Bakula as the champion of this mass ideology. It was he  who started propagating nationalism in the cold desert of Ladakh to counter the  separatist ideology of the Kashmiri leadership.

It was this  nationalism which became the “rallying  force among the Ladakhis to fight back the Pakistanis and the Chinese who made  frequent bids to conquer (their) land in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999.”

Who played the  exemplary role in these wars to comprehensively defeat the enemy’s  misadventures? The brave jawans of the Ladakh Scouts did all they could to  defeat the Pakistani and Chinese evil designs. They made supreme sacrifices to  preserve the unity and integrity of India.

The people of  Ladakh had made it loud and clear from day one that they wanted to be part of  India and that they would not become party to any agreement biased in favor of  the separatist and communal Kashmiri leadership, and against them. In fact, at  the time of the communal partition, they submitted memoranda to the Maharaja of  Jammu & Kashmir, as also to the Government of India, containing demands “based on (their) bitter experience.”

The memoranda  contained three specific alternative proposals:
  (1)   “The Maharaja should govern Ladakh  directly without tagging it on to Kashmir Valley”;
  (2)   “Our homeland be amalgamated with  the Hindu majority Jammu and should form a separate province in which adequate  safeguards should be provided for distinctive rights and interests of  Ladakhis”; and
  (3)   “Ladakh should be permitted to join  East Punjab.”

It bears recalling  that the Maharaja could not respond because certain developments had in the  meantime worked against him, and he had to abdicate his authority in favor of  Sheikh Abdullah who enjoyed the full backing of Jawaharlal Nehru. The result  was that the Ladakhis decided to “merge with India straightway” and the  decision to that effect was communicated to the Prime Minister of India on May  4, 1949, by the President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) Chhewang  Rigzin.

The operative part  of the communication/memorandum read: “Ladakh  is not prepared to go to Pakistan whatever the result of the plebiscite may be.”  The communication also said: “We seek the  bosom of that gracious mother (India) to receive more nutriments for growth to  our full stature in every way. She has given us what we prize above all other  things - our religion and culture. The Ashoka wheel on her flag, symbol of  goodwill for all humanity, and her concern for her cultural children, calls us  irresistibly. Will the great mother refuse to take to her arms one of her  weakest and most forlorn and depressed children - a child whom filial love  impels to respond to the call?”

Unhappy with Sheikh Abdullah
Ever since, the  Ladakhis have been consistently demanding segregation from Kashmir and  struggling for Union Territory status, in vain. The Government of India,  instead of meeting their genuine demand, has forced them to suffer at the hands  of the Kashmiri leadership and the result has been an all-round degeneration of  the Ladakhis. “The Government of India”,  in the words of the LUTF, “made us to be  governed by Kashmiris during these decades to our utter ruin. In the  post-independence period we have been reduced to the status of slaves in our  own homeland. The impact of oppressive rule by the J&K Government over us  has obliterated our cultural and social ethos.”

Not just this.  Ladakhis have been quite unhappy with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The reason: He  divided Ladakh in 1979 on communal lines and carved out of the  Buddhist-majority Ladakh district a Muslim-majority Kargil district, to pit  Muslims against Buddhists and weaken the pro-India movement, and weaken their  struggle for political and economic empowerment.

As far as the  history of the Ladakhi struggle against Kashmiri domination and the politics of  separation based on religious fanaticism in the real sense of the term is  concerned, it started in 1964. And this, notwithstanding the formation of the  LBA in 1949 and the Ladakhis’ attempts from time to time to achieve their due  share in the State’s political and economic processes, and make New Delhi free  them from the cruel clutches of the Kashmiri leadership. 1964 was the first  ever well-organized attempt on the part of Ladakhis in this direction under the  inspiring and effective leadership of Kushok Bakula. That year, the fed up,  grossly-ignored, politically marginalized and badly humbled Ladakhis demanded “NEFA-type Central  administration.”

However, nothing  came of it as New Delhi adopted an indifferent attitude towards the  well-founded demand put forth by the Ladakhis. Determined as they were to snap  their ties with the arrogant and discriminatory Valley leadership, the Ladakhis  again launched a full-scale movement in 1974. The stated objective this time  was “Central  administration for Ladakh.”

Those who led this  movement included Lama Lobzang, Thupstan Chhewang and Tsering Samphel; but with  no result. The reason: The Valley-centric Kashmiri leadership opposed the  demand tooth and nail. New Delhi went by the Kashmiri leadership’s line of  action. But the agitation continued unabated in a peaceful and constitutional  manner.

However, in 1982 a  concerted attempt was made to give a somewhat radical orientation to the  ongoing struggle in the cold-desert by P Namgyal, Member of Parliament.  However, he did not demand NEFA-type Central administration, but regional  autonomy within the State.

As expected,  neither the vindictive and unfair State Government nor the Union Government  accepted the demand for regional autonomy for the cold desert. Instead, the  Kashmiri rulers, backed to the hilt by the Union Government, “severely suppressed the democratic movement  of peace-loving Buddhists through the State police.”

It took no less  than seven long years for the oppressed Ladakhis to reorganize themselves once  again for another full-scale struggle to achieve independence from Kashmir and  obtain the status of Union Territory. The movement, launched in 1989, was  spearheaded by the LBA. This movement was the fall-out of the “cumulative  alienation of Ladakhis.”

This movement took  place at a time when anti-India activities were gaining momentum in Kashmir,  resulting in “total boycott of  Independence Day celebrations.” Did Dr Farooq Abdullah do anything to curb  any of the anti-national activities? No, he allowed the anti-national forces in  Kashmir to vitiate the political atmosphere. On the contrary, the Government of  Dr Abdullah “chose to let out his anger  on the peaceful demonstrations in Leh” culminating in loss of precious  lives.

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