Former Envoy and Trans-Himalayan Affairs Expert
Ladakh is passing through a very difficult time. The recent resignation by Thufstan Chewang, Ladakh's only Member of Parliament and also the BJP is indicative of the protracted nature of political crisis confronted by this strategic region.
For a long time, circumstances never allowed Ladakh to shape its own political identity and instead it had to remain steadfastly under the political patronage of external political groups and agenda.
Of course, intermittent attempts by people to voice their local aspirations were either ruthlessly crushed or they were skilfully outmanoeuvred by political masters from outside. None of the demands raised by Ladakh, some of them predating the J&K's merger with the Indian Union, still remain unfulfilled.
A battlefield for political agendas
The reasons are numerous, but essentially they have succeeded in exploiting the simplicity, backwardness, fragility and also played on local fault-lines to keep Ladakh under their thumb. Such proclivities are seemingly encouraging others (outsiders) to find space for playing mischief and bring friction in Ladakh's social fabric. We are now witnessing rival political/ideological interest groups and parties from outside increasingly making Ladakh a battlefield for pushing their political agendas.
The present situation is an early sign of how Ladakh is likely to get torn apart by factional strife. People are indulging in petty and divisive politics to the detriment of social cohesion and unity. Confusion among people is palpable. The balance and maturity that existed in Ladakhi society seems to be fast receding.
Such tendencies are already vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of Ladakh with serious consequence of putting a great deal of strain on its society. Clearly, Ladakh can also no longer allow itself to walk consciously or be driven by the force of self-destruction. If not restrained, fear is that Ladakh too will regress into needless disorder, social upheaval and chaos.
It becomes, therefore, imperative and also a moral obligation to restore and return to the era of peace, stability, brotherhood, communal amity between communities. Urgency demands that people make serious interventions to prevent further deterioration of the situation.
Limit to pulls of political dynamics
It is also clear that being a small community, there is a limit to how much Ladakh can withstand the pulls and pressure of political dynamics taking place elsewhere at the national level. Whereas, Ladakh has its own social, political and economic issues that are specific and distinct that cannot be addressed by juxtaposing or over-identifying with the larger trend.
At the same time it is very important to care and participate in politics, for Ladakhis should know not only what is going on around them but also to ensure that political decisions made at various levels do not adversely affect their lives. Ladakhis have to exercise our democratic rights carefully because every vote that people make will either make or break society.
However, Ladakh cannot allow its political aspirations to be driven by external motivations, which seems easier but not an ideal choice, for it will amount to exposing its political bankruptcy.
It is of utmost importance that people of Ladakh are proud of their regional identity which is more distinct by any yardstick compared to Jammu and Kashmir. The situation around Ladakh has changed rapidly in the past 20 years, and the time has now come to deal with the widespread shortcomings in our political approaches that are not without detrimental to Ladakh's interests.
Clearly, Ladakh's problems can only be addressed through its own political ideas, thoughts, actions and wisdom that would in a way enable the people to reflect their own regional distinctiveness and aspirations. Ladakh has a strong political leadership which can guide the people on the right path with a clear sense of future.
Against the backdrop of these impinging political concerns and without going into merits and demerits of the past experience, several responsible people have been mulling over the idea of creating a local political platform under the rubric Ladakh Rangyul or simply the Rangyul with the following objectives:
"To nurture a political expression and outlook for Ladakh to be able to uphold its identity and interest first;
"To fill the void of identity politics in Ladakh;
"To steer an alternative political discourse based on local aspirations and challenges;
"To work towards the removal of prolonged political neglect of Ladakh by putting the key issues on the forefront of national attention;
"To strive for changing the political status quo of Ladakh within the Indian Constitution;
"To identify, articulate and exude Ladakh's core issues through its own voice and platform;
"To cater to growing to rising expectations of the people especially the younger generation to prevent them falling adrift;
"To exploit the full political potentials and economic interests of Ladakh;
"To enable Ladakh to play a greater political role both in the Centre and state;
Any person or groups wishing to push for a transformational change Gyur-ja in Ladakh and believes in the principles, aims and objectives of the Rangyul should come forward to take the idea further.
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