In Conversation with Smanla Dorje Nurboo, President, Pradesh Youth Congress Ladakh

By Yangchen Dolma Leh, Mar 21, 2023
Leh :

Q. How do you get into politics and was Congress party your first preference?

I never intended to be in politics, but to work with the community for overall development is what I wanted to do. I got an opportunity to work as a President at the village level, during which people of my village thought that someone like me should stand up for elections. At first, I thought I will fight the election as an independent candidate, but the people of my village went to both the BJP and Congress parties for the mandate. However, the Congress party gave me the mandate to fight the Hill Council election from Saspol constituency and this is where the story of my political career starts.

Talking about my preferences, I wanted to join the Congress party because of the history and ideology of the party. The only thing now is that I wanted to work dedicatedly and fearlessly for the betterment of the people. At present, I am focused on my tenure, work for the people, and their aspirations, apart from that no other plan for the future is there as such. 

Q. What you will say about the role of opposition after Ladakh became Union Territory?

India being a democratic country and Ladakh being a part of it, opposition needs to exist. It isn’t like a war among parties as people assume. It’s somewhat like a debate that goes in monastic practices in Buddhism. If we hear what people say from all sides, then things become clear to us. That is why the opposition needs to exist otherwise there will be no difference between monarchial societies. 

The existence of opposition is important for a healthy democracy. Today we hear about “Congress Mukt Bharat” - this ideology is only going to harm them in the long run.

Q. Brief us about the function of Hill council after UT status? How important is the strengthening and empowerment of councils?

Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council is achieved after many struggles and since its formation, the Council is working for the development of the region. 

Today, the scenario of Ladakh is different. Indeed, the Hill council's share of fund out of the overall budget is less but it is also true that today, more funds are being provided by the central govt. The Council was formed to give the people of Ladakh greater autonomy in the development of the region. Today, the autonomy that the hill council enjoyed before does not seem to be there anymore. Though on paper there is some sort of autonomy. Today at the centre BJP is in power, Council is also run by them and the Lieutenant Governor is also appointed by the ruling so there is some sort of power clash between the administration and council when decisions are to be taken up. There seems to be pressure on the hill council which makes them stay mum on many issues of the Ladakh and many of the things are left unimplemented by the Council despite having all the powers.

Q. Ladakh is demanding safeguards for land, culture, job, and environment after UT status. What is your view about it?

Various organizations and parties of Ladakh including the ruling party have stressed the importance of safeguards. The special powers that were there under Article 370 are no more there and it is indeed a matter of concern. Hence the importance of the 6th schedule in the region is talked about. The ruling party in the region also talks about safeguards but to name it 6th schedule is going against their ideology. Anyone can understand the positive change that this schedule will bring to the region in terms of safeguards and autonomy. If there are provisions that do not match our needs, there is autonomy to change that also.

Regarding statehood demand many talks about population criteria, when Sikkim was made a state in 1975, the 1971 census shows a population of only 2 lakh people. Today Ladakh’s population is more than 3 lakh, so if the ruling govt agrees statehood can be attained. Statehood along with 6th schedule means more autonomy and power. For instance, Bodoland has 6th schedule and a regional party that has been in the power for a long time now. When BJP came into power in Assam, they let non-Bodos settle in the Bodoland region due to which the tribal population of the region has reduced to 30% which was more than 50% earlier. So the status of the 6th schedule can be taken away anytime if the ruling govt allows it. To prevent such scenarios if there is statehood, then we can have complete autonomy and power to bring any changes we wish in the region. 

Q. How important is it for youths to participate in politics? 

Active participation of youth in politics has become very important because if there is no active involvement there will be no change. You can’t wait for the change; you have to be the change. Not only active youth participation but every citizen has become very important today. We are at this point where despite having differences all of us need to unite and fight for a common cause for the betterment of Ladakh. 
‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ led by Rahul Gandhi. He said that the yatra does not aim for election purposes but is to bring people together and spread the message of love and peace. 

Message to the readers

“We all need to leave aside all our differences and work as a Ladakhi. Today Ladakh has to be our priority and strive unitedly for a better future. We must not forget that Unity is strength.”