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Fulfilment of UT dream raises hopes of Ladakh’s development

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New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) When young MP from Ladakh Jamyang Tsering Namgyal spoke in Lok Sabha on Tuesday on a bill providing for carving out his region as a Union Territory from Jammu and Kashmir state, he spoke his heart out and reflected the angst, accumulated over decades, against Kashmir-centric rule.

Namgyal, the BJP member representing the country’s largest Lok Sabha constituency which shares borders with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and China, highlighted the struggle of the people of Ladakh over the last seven decades for delinking of the region from Jammu and Kashmir state.

Now, he is happy that Ladakh is being made a Union Territory as he is convinced that it will usher in development of the cold desert region. President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday signed the bill on Wednesday and soon al other formalities will be completed.

The people of this region had been demanding “freedom” from Kashmiri rule, complaining that the “Kashmir-centric” governments in Srinagar did not provide enough finances to Ladakh and even usurped the funds sent by the Centre.

“We have struggled for 71 years” for UT status, which meant direct integration with the Union of India, the 34-year-old MP said in his speech which became hugely popular, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders of the BJP showering praise.

The people of Ladakh, comprising a population mix of Buddhists and Shia Muslims, had been frowning over the fact that their destiny was connected to Kashmir, because of which the region could not see any development.

“Why should we suffer because of problems in Kashmir?” This was the common refrain of the people of Ladakh, including the Shia Muslim-dominated Kargil, after militancy erupted in Kashmir. The people of Ladakh never associated with the separatist movement of the Kashmir valley and the region has been terrorism free all through.

The grouse of the people of Ladakh was genuine in the sense that the largest region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in terms of area, had only four seats earmarked in the 87-member Assembly, giving it very little say in the affairs of the state.

Fulfilment of UT dream raises hopes of Ladakh's development

The people of Ladakh, under the banner of Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), carried out a sustained campaign over last seven decades in demand for UT status.

The first organized agitation against Kashmir’s “dominance” was witnessed in 1964 under the leadership of revered Buddhist icon Kushok Bakula. It, however, did not yield the desired results.

In late 1980s, a bigger agitation was launched to press their demand for UT status, so that the region could be governed directly by the Centre.

The movement was spearheaded by the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA). Incidentally, the agitation was launched at a time when militancy was finding feet in Kashmir, resulting in disruption of supplies to Ladakh since the route to the region passed through the Valley.

The agitation was, however, suspended after some months as the LBA thought it would not be proper to increase the problems for the central government at a time when it was dealing with the problem of rising militancy. Consultations were subsequently held and it resulted in setting up of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in early 1990s, an elected body which would have governing powers for the region to a certain extent.

But since the funds for the LAHDC were to be routed through the state government based in Srinagar and Jammu (on six-monthly basis every year), the complaints about the financial choking continued.

The LAHDC leaders used to regularly complain that the “Kashmir-based government” was not letting the Council to function properly and they were made to plead for funds.

About three years back, All Religious Joint Action Committee (ARJAC), formed to press the demand for Union Territory status, passed a resolution at a meeting, underlining that Ladakh is “fundamentally different from Kashmir in all respects – culturally, ethnically and linguistically” and thus should be separated from it.

It complained that the successive state governments based in Kashmir had adopted a “policy of discrimination and subversion” towards Ladakh with the “sole objective of stifling its people and marginalizing its historical, religious and cultural identity.”

The resolution highlighted that the people of the region have always been nationalists and played a key role against aggressions by Pakistan and China.

The granting of UT status would solve all its problems, the ARJAC said in its demand, which has been met now.

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