The Conference Adjourned: Looking Into the Aspirations in Ladakh

The Demand for self-rule has been a burning agenda of political activities in Ladakh for ages. An overwhelming urge for self-rule, across the globe, often leads to secessionist movements. Ladakh is not an exception. But the state authorities don’t address this concern in a proper sensible way until the situation takes an uncontrollable turn. Representatives of the agitators are called upon; conditions and provisions of self-rule are negotiated on the table; a council is formed with or without a mandate of the masses; and then funds are transferred to the concerned councils. The state government of Jammu and Kashmir had formed a council long ago. Recently the chief minister has decided to form a separate police administration for the region. It will now be easier for police to enforce law and order in the remote region which is 400 kilometres from the state capital Srinagar.

Administrative decentralization has been a joint demand of the Buddhists and the Muslims of Leh for long. In this heated up context of Muslim-Buddhist rivalry across the subcontinent (Buddhist resistance in Myanmar and alleged involvement of Indian Mujahedeen in the blasts in Bodhgaya), the success of this joint movement becomes extremely significant. Both Kargil and Leh are demanding more autonomy from Srinagar; they want to carve out a division consisting of the two districts. It, according to them, will make them more independent of the state in matters other than administrative. The two districts are now parts of the Kashmir division.

Omar Abdulla is not yet ready to concede all that much. Huryat Conference leadership, too, is firm on its stance. Extremist Huryat leader Syed Shah Gilani has already termed the accession to autonomy as an ‘evil ploy’ to divide Kashmir. But Huryat, for ages, has been vocal about Kashmiri sovereignty and has been a dedicated organizer of violent movements to achieve this. By Kashmir, they mean the entire state, putting aside the fact that the Hindu and the Buddhist peoples of the state have always been apprehensive about joining in their proposed sovereign structure.

People of Ladakh do not want to be a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. If Huryat’s reluctance of being part of India is justified, so is the Ladakhis’ reluctance of being Pakistani citizens. Huryat, at this point of time, should think over why the Muslims of Ladakh are setting aside the issues of cultural and religious similarities in their perception of political identity. Does this point out a failure on the Huryat’s part to organize an inclusive mass movement? Huryat leaders have to engage in a scorching self-introspection to find out the answer.

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