Divisional Status for Ladakh—A Rejoinder

By Nurboo Gialchan Leh, Apr 07, 2014
Leh :
“You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” Abraham Lincoln

Some misplaced criticisms have been pouring in from some vested interest sections of Ladakh against the recent resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council in favour of a separate Division for Ladakh. While the saner sections of society have welcomed this historic resolution, some vested interest political elements, hiding behind the guise of Union Territory (UT), have tried to create a fuss about it.

Before saying anything else, let’s put things in proper perspective. Juxtaposition of Divisional Status for Ladakh and the UT for Ladakh is if anything at all, a political gimmick—nothing more and nothing less. Whereas the urge for Ladakh Division is an additional administrative mechanism to redress some of the genuine grievances (which I’ll explain later on) of the people of Ladakh vis-à-vis the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, UT is a political goal to be fulfilled by the Government of India. In other words, UT is a long term political aspiration of the people of Ladakh; Divisional Status for Ladakh is a short term administrative mechanism. A separate Ladakh Division, therefore, in no way hampers Ladakh’s quest for UT. Would they then say that the recent New Administrative Units (3 Sub-Divisions; 5 Tehsils; 7 CD Blocks; 13 Niabads; and, 60 Patwar Halqas) for Leh are also against the interest of Ladakh and UT?  All level-headed Ladakhis have hailed these as historic and unprecedented. Those who oppose such mechanisms are real hypocrites and, of course, real enemies of Ladakh.

UT is neither a Utopian State nor a fool’s paradise. It’s a pragmatic mechanism of governance wherein you ought to have the Divisions, the Districts, the Sub-Divisions, the Tehsils, the Blocks, the Niabats and the Patwar Halqas as administrative units. How can anyone deliver governance in UT-Ladakh without such administrative units? The royal hereditary of Pre-1947 Ladakh can’t be brought back in conjunction with UT. If somebody says it can be done, he/she is completely bluffing the people.
Therefore, it would be in the greatest interest of the people of Ladakh if these two distinctively different apparatuses of governance are not mixed up just for the sake of politics of vote bank. Mr. Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, youth wing president, Leh unit of BJP has, unfortunately, done this through his write-ups in the Daily Excelsior’s March 13, 2014 edition and in the State Times’ March 16, 2014 edition. Let me dispel some of the unfounded doubts he has created in the minds of the readers, especially from Ladakh.

First, he explains that seeking Division for Ladakh was not my family matter. What rubbish, everybody knows it—you don’t need a sage to propagate a simple matter of fact. Known is also the fact that I didn’t move the resolution in the capacity of head of my family. But, what Mr. Jamyang doesn’t seem to know is the sanctity of a democratic institution, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, of which I am a member representing Ladakh. A resolution of the House is not like a gag moved by his party’s district unit. It has in-depth democratic sanctity and credibility.

Second, he seems to be overly alarmed by the so-called officers of higher ranks as if they are aliens on an expeditious foray to conquer Ladakh. Come on, we are living in a democratic country, the world’s largest democracy, not in the Royal Aristocracy of Pre-1947 Ladakh. Whatever the rank and height of an officer may be, he/she is eventually accountable to the public representatives. And, that is the essence and the beauty of democracy. But you ought to have democratic observance—not despotic arrogance and feudal ignorance—to be wary of such realities.

Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Act-1997 is neither just a piece of paper nor a collection words to be undermined by even a bureaucrat of the highest rank—say the Chief Secretary of the State. It’s a piece of democratic legislation, an Act enacted by the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature and endorsed by the Governor of J&K on behalf of the President of India. Councillors of LAHDC are unlike the ignorant royal/aristocratic group of the Pre-1947 Ladakh where a single general (Zorawar Singh) becomes powerful enough to shake it upside down; it’s a democratic body of public representatives elected through adult franchise. Therefore, unless and until the LAHDC is manned by a bunch of ignorant people lacking democratic acumen (which, I am sure, will not happen), no one can undermine it. Let me request Mr. Jamyang to a more vivid self-contemplation and draw his attention to the following.

Ladakh is already a part of one of the two divisions (Kashmir Division) of J&K; and, the Divisional Commissioner (Kashmir) looks after the matters relating to Ladakh as well. With a regressive mind, as is evident from his write-up, one can only present a pessimistic picture of everything. Let me highlight a very few of the many positives if Divisional status is granted to Ladakh:

•Divisional cadre posts will be available within Ladakh. Will this not create more avenues of employment in the public (government) sector?

•Separate Directorates of all Departments would be set-up in Ladakh on the analogy of the two existing divisions. Should this 
not bring more flow of more funds and development in Ladakh?

•Fixation of seniority and promotions of all the divisional/district cadre Ladakhi employees will be done within Ladakh under their respective directorates/departments. Don’t you realise that this will be in the interest of the thousands of Ladakhi employees?

•Presently, for petty matters like fixation of seniority and due promotions, our employees have to go to Srinagar. Just to cite the example of a single department, ask Ladakhi Teachers, Masters and Lecturers how much annoying and torturing have their experience been in Srinagar for such small matters/benefits of service entitled to them. They will tell the story of their suffering in great details.

•Would it not be better for Ladakhis if petty matters like land disputes are settled by administrative courts/tribunals within Ladakh rather than causing them the inconvenience of travelling hundreds of miles (thousands in winters) to Srinagar
? Don’t discount the heavy monetary loss on account of transportations.

•Don’t you realise that a separate Police Zone for Ladakh will benefit the thousands of Ladakhi police personnel and officers in their proper placements, postings, transfers and promotions?

If a new administrative mechanism can promise such enormous benefits to the Ladakhis, what is the harm in having it? Here is what stands testimony to his hypocrisy as well as the hollowness of his argument: On the one hand, Mr. Jamyang decries the Kashmir-centric governance; but, on the other hand, he also rubbishes a new mechanism that could potentially be an antithesis (Ladakh Division) for the same Kashmir-centric governance—curving Ladakh out of Kashmir Division.

Third, he is also wary of a kind of nightmarish dream called the Pre-1953 status that will do away with the LAHDC Act-1997 and the Scheduled Tribe status for Ladakh. While the two Valley-based parties, NC & PDP, seemed to have given it up—as they don’t use it on political platforms of late—Mr. Jamyang seems to be the only person still worried about it. The Pre-53, the Self Rule, the Autonomy, the Greater Ladakh, and the Royal Aristocracy of Pre-47 Ladakh have all become immaterial and outlandish. We are living in a completely different era of geopolitics. We are at a very crucial political cross-road where there is no scope for regressive remorse; we can only afford progressive examination of the realities confronting us. So it would be a complete wastage of his/her time if one still keeps looking back at the phases of time already gone by.

Fourth, he also proudly, though flawed and mistaken, says that his visionary leaders had rejected the Divisional status for Ladakh. I don’t know if there was an iota of vision in that, but there were ignorance and arrogance in abundance for sure. May I remind him of a bitter truth? These very visionary leaders had also rejected the Scheduled Tribe status for Ladakh in the guise of protecting their royalty and aristocracy. Given their regressive frame of mind, they failed to realise that it was a progressive mechanism of positive discrimination. But thanks to the common sense of some leaders, Ladakh finally got the ST status in 1989. Today, the Scheduled Tribe status is with us but the Royal Aristocracy (incompatible with democracy) is gone. It might have offended the ego of some, but benefitted thousands of Ladakhi students and employees. Therefore, it’s better to keep such misplaced visions with themselves rather than using them to fool the people with—because, as in the ST case, they are far better off without them. For me, if you can use your common sense you don’t need to have any sophisticated vision. Hence, a so-called vision without common sense may prove to be disastrous and is not worth having.

Mr. Jamyang quotes a speech made by his leader Sh. Thupstan Chhewang at Polo Ground to support his argument, “we have never demanded a Divisional Status and rather we had rejected it…to strive for our genuine goal UT.” As much as I wish to be humble, I can’t resist saying the following.Sh. Thupstan Chhewang might have said such things at Polo Ground—or anywhere else. But he keeps mum where his voice matters most. He did not utter the word UT once in the Parliament during his entire stint of five years as MP-Ladakh. Moreover, during the vote of confidence in the Parliament (in the course of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal), every MP was given a chance to speak in the Parliament (and thereby a chance to bargain for their respective constituencies in lieu of support to the Government). Many MPs voted for the Government and got huge dividends for their constituencies. Ironically, Mr. Thupstan Chhewang voted for the then Government but did not utter a single word about Ladakh and its dream, UT—forget moving a resolution!!! If this is what he calls visionary, it’s definitely not worth having.

Therefore, I sincerely advice Mr. Jamyang to stop this rhetorical nonsense for the sake of people of Ladakh. The more you try to underestimate the common sense of the people the lesser the chance to yield political dividends. UT is not an instrument you can play around with for vote bank during elections and forget subsequently. It’s a cherished dream of every Ladakhi. We do support it; but not for electoral politics. Keep the sanctity of UT intact; don’t try to blindfold people with it for electoral politics—it has got a much better space beyond your political gimmick.