In the previous parts of this series, we discussed the fact-finding report on Kashmir and Jammu, it can be ‘accessed here’.This part deals with the Ladakh region.
Fact-Finding Team Ladakh:
1. Ms Poonam Bachheti, Educationist
2. Dr Poonam Kumria, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Miranda House Delhi University
3. Prof. Vijeta Singh Aggarwal Professor, Department of Management Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi.
The single most significant feeling in Ladakh was Euphoria. People were ecstatic that their demand for a Union Territory that was pending since 1947 had been finally granted. Personal interactions were conducted with people cutting across gender, age groups, professions, SC/ST and religious backgrounds. Besides spending time in Leh and Kargil, we visited several villages and also Government offices, Colleges, schools, homes, market places and spoke to people in the rural as well as urban areas including men, women, youth and children.
Preserving Cultural Identity: Interaction with the Locals
The interaction took place in Leh city, i.e. an urban area. The sample population here comprised of people not only from Leh but also from Nubra, Kargil, Chuchat, and Durbok.
Similarly, student interaction in Eliezer Jolden Memorial College, Leh includes students from all over Ladakh representing rural-urban areas, Buddhist-Muslim community, and SC-ST population. The students belonged to various parts of rural areas in Ladakh like- Ney, Phey, Saboo, Thicksey, Saspol, Tacha (Kargil), Nayoma, Chushul, Chuchat-Yakma, Chuchot-Shana, Sakti, Igoo, Stok, Shey, Nimoo, etc. though the majority of students were from Leh.
The interaction was also organised in the Phyang village, in Leh. It is located 15 km west of Leh in the Indus river valley, with a view of mount Stok Kangri. The declaration of revoking article 370 in the state has been widely welcomed by the local community.
Some respondents from Kargil were not sure if the decision should have been taken or not.
Interaction with Police gave insight into the peaceful community of Ladakh. We have been told that there has been no report of violence or any demonstration after the removal of Article 370 on August 5, 2019
Saga of Kargil
Zenabin, the nominated councillor of Kargil told us that baring a few disturbances; the entire district of Kargil has been peaceful after removal of article 370.
She was hopeful that now they will get better jobs and funds from the centre that will directly reach them.
Rukiya Banu, mother of a girl and two boys, one of them studying Engineering at Rajasthan was happy that now education centres will come to their district.
K Hassan Pasha, a politically active resident of Kargil, said they are very delighted with setting aside of Article 370. Some people are not aware of the outcomes and therefore they are a little confused. He said that the educated people of Kargil are very happy with the removal of Article 370. They feel that now onwards the Kashmir centric policies will stop and they have finally got independence in the right sense of the word. The future is bright and now we will get our Haq (right).
The opinion of Police, Law & Judiciary
Interaction with Police gave insight into the peaceful community of Ladakh. We have been told that there has been no report of violence or any demonstration after the removal of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
Most felt that the identity of the people must be preserved. This can be achieved by giving the status of Schedule VI of the Indian constitution as given to the North-Eastern States of India.
Education System: In search of Finances & Infrastructure
Visit to EGM College Leh, made us aware of new realities. As per discussion with faculty and other staff in college, the removal of Article 370 would be greatly beneficial for the students as currently, a Ladakhi student has to take all the permissions and migrations from Kashmir University, therefore, a 3-year program approximately takes 4.5 years. A medical college has already been sanctioned; nursing college and an integrated B. Ed. college is on their way. What comes out most starkly through these interactions is that better access to institutes of higher learning is a pressing need and the local populace sees the new administrative set up as facilitative changes that harken to a brighter future for their kids.
“The professors in EJM College were very hopeful for the incoming of higher education institutes and avenues of employment for youth.
Given the geographic difficulty as well as the strategic importance of the region, investments in the development of infrastructures such as roads, communication pipelines, air connectivity and power transmission infrastructure will need to be seen from considerations larger than purely economic logic.
Employment to Environment: Serious Concerns
On a more practical dimension, Mudasser Ahmed, a second-year student at EGM College remarked, “Ab berozgaro ko rozgar milega” (the unemployed will get employment).
Rinchen said that now we will have better health facilities and more employment. However, I am concerned about the environment with more people coming to Ladakh, which can influence ecology in a negative way.
We also spoke to a local Sarpanch Mr Tensing (of Kalsay Block). He sees the removal of article 370 as contributing to local development by direct flow of central assistance to local communities and strengthened the hands of local representatives.
Suggestions and Road Ahead
1. Greater focus on preservation and value addition to the cultural and linguistic identity of Ladakh.
2. Bhoti needs to be recognised as a distinct language lending suitable focus on its development and preservation.
3. Since the entire expectation of changes that will come from the removal of Article 370 stems from an experience of an administration in Kashmir that was culturally and attitudinally insensitive, greater participation of the local populace in the decision making structures will be a must. This will require a focus on increased autonomy of local councils, empowerment of grass-roots democracy and a culturally sensitive administration.
4. The area is isolated with less transport infrastructure, a greater focus on land connectivity is a must as large parts of South Ladakh are even now accessible only on foot. Similarly, air connectivity, communication connectivity etc need to be strengthened.
5. Education infrastructure will need to be strengthened in the local area as it has been a dominant concern of the local population since long.
6. As a lot of focus is on creating economic opportunities, on local skill formation in the locally relevant sectors and then creating economic and entrepreneurial opportunities to absorb these skilled people.
7. For tourism Ladakh’s main attraction is its culture and natural environment, the government needs to be open to initiatives aimed at protecting these.
8. Development of local potential in renewable energy, Uranium and Hydro potential of the region will require adequate safeguards for ecology and environment, local wildlife and scarce water resources.
9. Given the geographic difficulty as well as the strategic importance of the region, investments in the development of infrastructures such as roads, communication pipelines, air connectivity and power transmission infrastructure will need to be seen from considerations larger than purely economic logic.
10. Handling of solid waste, use of water and adoption of appropriate technology taking advantage of the native wisdom will need to be paid attention to.
11. Ladakh is a constellation of villages so the special package should be given for the development of villages.
12. The food processing industry is the need of the hour. This will give a boost to the rural economy.
13. Women in rural areas require training programmes to enhance their entrepreneurial skills.
14. People need networking, with the market to sell their agricultural produce as well as handicrafts.
15. There is a large scope of development of Solar energy production which can fulfil not only Ladakh’s requirement but can be sold to neighbouring states.
16. The government must try to open old trade routes to start religious pilgrimages via Tibet to Mount Kailash. Ladakh is a place where the Ladakhi and Indian identity is bigger than the religious identity, all groups coexist harmoniously. In this context grant of the Union Territory status to Ladakh makes perfect sense.
We observed that in both Leh and Kargil, people are engaged in deriving benefits from their UT status and are looking at ways in which their regions will develop mechanisms for empowerment through BDC elections and such the like. In Ladakh, the single most dominant feeling is that of Euphoria. People from Leh and Kargil are looking ahead with positivity.
Here is the complete report: