Statehood to Ladakh will be a step towards slavery of Buddhists
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 06 Mar , 2024

The political history of post-1947 Ladakh could be legitimately considered as the history of the rise of nationalism and integration with India. In fact, nationalism became their watchword and their battle-cry, with the highly revered Buddhist KushokBakula, Head Lama of Ladakh, as the champion of this mass ideology. It was he who started propagating nationalism in the high altitude cold desert of Ladakh to counter the separatist ideology of the Kashmiri leadership. It was this nationalism which became the ‘rallying force among the Ladakhis to fight back the Pakistanis and the Chinese who made frequent bids to conquer (their) land in 1948, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999.’ Who played the exemplary role in these wars to comprehensively defeat the enemy’s misadventures?

The brave Jawans of the Ladakh Scouts did all they could to defeat the Pakistani and Chinese evil designs. They made supreme sacrifices to preserve the unity and integrity of India.

The Buddhists of Ladakh had made it loud and clear from day one that they wanted to be part of India and that they would not become party to any agreement biased in favour of the separatist and communal Kashmiri leadership, and against them. In fact, at the time of the communal partition, they submitted memoranda to the Maharaja of J&K, Hari Singh, as also to the Government of India, containing demands “based on (their) bitter experience.”

The memoranda contained three specific alternative proposals:

    • The Maharaja should govern Ladakh directly without tagging it on to Kashmir Valley”;
    • Our homeland be amalgamated with the Hindu majority Jammu and should form a separate province in which adequate safeguards should be provided for distinctive rights and interests of Ladakhis”; and
    • Ladakh should be permitted to join East Punjab.”

It bears recalling that the Maharaja could not respond because certain developments had in the meantime worked against him, and he had to abdicate his authority in favour of Sheikh Abdullah who enjoyed the full backing of Jawaharlal Nehru. The result was that the Buddhists decided to “merge with India straightway” and the decision to that effect was communicated to the Prime Minister of India on May 4, 1949, by the President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) Chhewang Rigzin.

The operative part of the communication/memorandum read: “Ladakh is not prepared to go to Pakistan whatever the result of the plebiscite may be.” The communication also said: “We seek the bosom of that gracious mother (India) to receive more nutriments for growth to our full stature in every way. She has given us what we prize above all other things – our religion and culture. The Ashoka wheel on her flag, symbol of goodwill for all humanity, and her concern for her cultural children, calls us irresistibly. Will the great mother refuse to take to her arms one of her weakest and most forlorn and depressed children (Buddhists) – a child whom filial love impels to respond to the call?”

1964 witnessed the first ever well-organized attempt on the part of Ladakhi Buddhists in this direction under the inspiring and effective leadership of Kushok Bakula.  “The Government of India,” in the words of the Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF), “made us to be governed by Kashmiris during these decades to our utter ruin. In the post-independence period we have been reduced to the status of slaves in our own homeland. The impact of oppressive rule by the J&K Government over us has obliterated our cultural and social ethos.” However, nothing came out.

They continued their struggle, but with no result. Convinced that the powers-that-be will not concede their demands, the Buddhists took recourse to violent methods in October 1989 to achieve separation from Kashmir. Their single-point agenda was to achieve UT status for Ladakh. The Buddhist agitation brought everything to standstill. Three persons lost their lives during the police-crowd clashes and many got injured, some fatally. The situation had turned so grave that the Government of India had to intervene. As a result, negotiations took place between the agitating Buddhists, Farooq Abdullah-led government and representatives of the Government of India.

The result: it was decided to create two autonomous hill development councils, one each for Leh district and Kargil district, much to the chagrin of the Kashmiri leadership, and despite the fact that the Kargil leadership had never ever sought UT status for Ladakh. Nor had it ever demanded autonomous hill development council for Kargil. Its ideology and aspirations were totally different from the ideology and aspirations of the Buddhists and it got autonomous council on a platter.

Presently, the Leh Council is under BJP and Kargil council under NC and Congress.

As per the 2011 census, the population of Leh district is 133,467 and that of Kargildistrict 140,802. It needs to be noted that the Kargil leadership consistently opposed the Buddhists’ demand seeking separation of Ladakh from Kashmir and UT status for the trans-Himalayan region. It consistently made common cause with pro-autonomy Kashmiri leadership comprising National Conference (NC) and Congress.

Kargil district was created by Sheikh Abdullah government in 1978 out of the Buddhist-majority Ladakh district to pit the followers of one religion against the followers of another and weaken the Buddhists’ movement aimed at protecting and promoting further their religion, culture and identity.

It bears recalling that the Buddhists accepted the 1989 autonomous hill development council formula as a first step towards their ultimate goal – UT. They never abandoned their UT demand, with Kargilleadership leaving no stone unturned to defeat it and again and again reposing full faith in the Kashmiri leadership. The Buddhists finally achieved their goal on August 5-6, 2019, when the Narendra Modi Government abrogated the pernicious, divisive and discriminatory Articles 35A and 370 and divided J&K into two UTs – J&K UT and Ladakh UT. The Buddhists celebrated the reforms as a day of deliverance and thanks-giving.

As for the Kargil leadership, it, like Kashmiri leaders – Abdullahs, Muftis, Mirs, Azads, Sozs, Lones, Bukharis, Tarigamis and who not – did not appreciate August 2019 reform scheme.

Sadly, however, things changed dramatically in Leh. The non-BJP Buddhist leadership in the district started changing their goal posts with each passing day. So much so, they and the Kargil leadership came on one platform to first demand Sixth Schedule so that the Ladakhis could control land and all jobs and then put forth a demand seeking full state status for Ladakh, coupled with an assembly invested with all powers, including legislative powers.

Not just this, they also formed what is called Apex Body consisting of Leh Buddhist leaders and Kargil leadership and caused political explosions at regular intervals in support of their demands.

It’s obvious that the Buddhist leadership in Leh has not taken cognizance of the grave evils that would follow on the conversion of Ladakh UT into Ladakh State coupled with one legislative assembly. As said, the highly strategic Ladakh was Buddhist-majority on October 26, 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh acceded J&K to the Indian Dominion. Today, the Buddhists are a minority; they constitute nearly 40 per cent of Ladakh’s total population. The Buddhists constitute a majority (66.40 per cent) only in Leh district. As for Hindus and Muslims, they constitute 17.14 per cent and 14.28 per cent population, respectively, in Leh district. In Kargildistrict, the Buddhists are only 14.29 per cent and Muslims 76.87 per cent.

What would be the immediate results if Ladakh granted state status and a legislative assembly established in the region? One, the institution of autonomous hill development council both in Leh and Kargil would become a story of the past. Two, everything would be controlled by the state government and the Buddhists, who today are a majority in Lehdistrict and call all shots there, as well as Kargil district’s Zanskar tehsil,  would lose the political status they today enjoy in their district. Since they constitute only 40 per cent of Ladakh’s population, they will only be a minority in the assembly, which discusses and decides questions of supreme importance to the happiness and well-being of the people. In other words, the majority population in Ladakh would exercise veto power like the Kashmiri leadership enjoyed veto power between 1947 and August 2019. It would be a negation of what Chhewang Rigzin, Head Lama of Ladakh, Kushok Bakula, and other Buddhist leaders did after 1947 for the region and for the Buddhists.

In short, the Buddhists would suffer grievous injuries if Ladakh UT is converted into state and legislative assembly created in the region. The Buddhist leadership would do well to consider the ramifications of what they are doing and demanding. They must abandon the statehood demand. The only option available to them to protect and promote further their religion, culture and identity is UT status. Instead of insisting on statehood and assembly, they should work for strengthening the Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council.

Post Script: Meanwhile, educationalist and social reformer Sonam Wangchuk would again sit on fast Wednesday, the March 6, at Leh and many religious organizations, including Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), organize bandh in Ladakh, despite the fact that LBA co-chairman CheringDorjey Lakruk on March 5 said in Delhi that “there was good progress on setting up of the PSC for Ladakh though some UTs don’t have their own PSC” and that “the Services Selection Board was set up by the UT Administration recently.” “The MHA wanted to implement some parts of Sixth Schedule indirectly while we are insisted on direct implementation of Sixth Schedule,’’ Lakrukalso said. Sonam Wangchuk and others like him would do well not to insist on state status. For, statehood to Ladakh would only mean a big step forward towards the Buddhists’ slavery.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Hari Om Mahajan

is former Member of Indian Council of Historical Research and former Dean of Jammu University’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

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29 thoughts on “Statehood to Ladakh will be a step towards slavery of Buddhists

  1. Sir,
    You must consider that demand for statehood for Ladakh has come up only out of total loss of trust in the Government because of their secondary treatment to Ladakh not granting it A UT without legislature whereas J&K with Legislature. Secondly ladakh back tracking its promise of granting protection under schedule 6.
    Please could you explain the two decieving acts of the centre government.
    Now let me put worth a few points:
    1. The current UT government headed by the center has reduced the Ladakh Autonomus Hill Development both Leh and Kargil a Slave like position having reduced its decision making powers by reducing its share of budget to just 10%.
    2. There is no no hindu ladakhi so I dont understand where has your data of 17.4% coming from ( is it from Armed forces posted there or the migrating population who come for seasonal work)

  2. We are all for supporting people of J&K and Ladakh and preserving the environment od the region. But schedule 6th does nothing about this. It is indeed a separatist legislation which should be removed from our country.

    Even in North east schedule 6 was given for protection of Tribal culture. But what has happened is it became a playground for Missionaries.

    I personally woild be delighted if I can support our citizens from these regions either by friendship, mentorship, employment or business. But we,as in most of India are sick and tired of separatism of any form. While of India should be available and accessible to every citizen equally except for yhe sake of Defence and Environmental protection.

  3. What the heck, Where the heck did you get this thing from. I’m a Ladakhi buddhist and I can totally say that your information is undoubtablly wrong.
    Specially the heading (totally misdirecting)
    Dividing our people on the basis of religion.

  4. You are an I’ll informed bigot who is larping as a historian which you are not. Forerunners in the quest for statehood and article 371 type protection are the Buddhists of Leh. You are a blot on the face of the association who claim an association with.

  5. I think the author should work on fictional writing as this piece of work is far from reality .Also this platform title should also be changed accordingly.
    You are a shame on Indian Council of Historical research, they should abandon your membership, you are not good for anything.

  6. The writer is so biased and have written this article with superfluous assumptions, if only the writer could have spent some years with the locals he ould have come to know what one thinks and what not. It was more of a hate mongering article than an knowledgeable one. 😂😂😂

  7. I couldn’t believe such a bogus and fabricated lies could be posted on such platform in which more than half of the content is based on unauthentic data and self-made figures and assumptions. This content is written in a typical Hindu way of thinking against Muslim which is characterized by hate, lie and fabricated stories. The thought of the people of Kargili have never been heard by Indians instead they made assumptions that the thought of a particular party leader could be synonymous to its people which is utterly uncalled for and unbearable allegation and should be seen as serious concern for the people of Kargil that how other fellow Indians think about Kargili people.
    It is an undeniable fact that sacrifices of Kargili during 1999 War is overlooked by Indian government and its media which inculcated a trust deficit in people of Kargil on Indian government. Not even that instead of encouraging the efforts made by the people of Kargil during 1999 war the Indian government and media degraded the image of Kargil which was ever seen as an important tourist destination is depicted as a war area by Indian government and Media due to which the area was once flocked by foreign tourist is reduced to a deserted region. The region was once most loved by mountaineers Glacier expeditions, trekkers etc. and now due to the kind affection of Indian media now the area is just seen as war zone by tourist. I don’t meant to sprinkle hate among us except showing the fact about Indian government and its media role in degrading the image of Kargil on national and international level and is still on.

  8. Aur yahi haal raha toh 2050 tak ladakh me Buddhist ka yeh population bi kam ho jayega aur leh me hindu ka population baad jayega, jis ka ex Himachal pradesh hai. Bas ek bar ladakh me train ki transportation aajaye leh khatam ho gayega. Aur yeh baad ladakh ke Buddhist ko samajhna chaye.

  9. This is very true . Ladakh doesn’t need statehood and Six schedule at the moment . It need to strengthen its LAHDCs but due to political strategies by few so called famous leaders , people are getting distracted towards unnecessary things . Sadly, people are unable to see what their future holds in this direction.

  10. First of all I want to declare the meaning of responsibility. It means to take the risk or fulfill someone’s need whom for taken. Now the leaders of the state have a responsibility to fulfill or try to handle the problems and want of their people. Our nation leaders at the moment of compaigning, they amuse our heart to fulfill our demands. But actually they just blow over headed, after they won election they forget their oaths and sake which shared with people. Similarly in Ladakh the BJP party at the time of election, the Leaders of BJP party gave us an oath to fulfill our demands, they would give 6th schedule. But now they forget or try to forgotten their oaths.
    The activist the sincere person sir Sonam wangchuk always show his passion as he had a responsibility to aware the ladakhis. He put his all effort towards his people, but the leaders are not ready to listen his demand.
    Infact I think it should be happened by the silence of today’s youth, today’s young students who are persuing knowledge and education only and only for them and for their family happiness, they didn’t want to take bother towards their region, in their towns, cities. Assalamualaikum just they say ( BAS JO CHAL RAHA HAI CHALNE DO).
    Ashamed today’s youth today’s students😔😔

  11. I agree with the author’s deep researched article about Ladakh’s struggle for U.T and grateful to govt of India for accepting this genuine demand.
    His view about the statehood and legislature carry equal weight. Only time will prove it right and real wisdom is need of the hour for Ladakhi to survive, sustain and growth for Buddhist of Ladakh and to carry on the struggle ahead.
    But the immediate needs of the hour is protection of Ladakh’s fragile culture and environment. Which could be possible only through an enactment being passed!

  12. If Buddishits of Ladakh do not understand politics of whole of Leh,a day wii come when all the Buddhists from Ladakh will be turned out of their motherland & forced to live in different parts of india like kashmiri pandits were forced by local muslims from Kashmir in1989 & till date they ar howering over throught ghe world

  13. The Author is spreading a propaganda and have zero knowledge of ladakh ground reality. He wrote the same propaganda article last year in an another news website to fearmonger and divert the ladakh main issues. I think the author is bjp stooge and well paid to spread these lies by bjp Jammu

  14. At what length a columnist has to stoop so low to reignite the evil and wickedness notion of divide and rule that once we had in the past.
    The author is considering the religion factor as the sole base for future prospects of the region, without delving into the aspirations of ladakhi as a whole, not just by religion. The title itself is depressive and digress from the whole agenda of the valley. Unlike other part of the country where religion based imbalance exists, Ladakh in the contrary has been the opposite of it.

  15. This is absurd. What a shame to impose divide and rule on us. Ladakhi Buddhist and Muslims are different , we may have little quarrel among ourself but tell me who doesn’t have small problems ? Even in the house hold family itself has a lot of stuff going on but that doesn’t mean they should be separated or hate on each other.
    And secondly there is no single Hindu in Ladakh , there are indeed few Christians but no Hindu so you should first study and the write.

    • There’s a lot of Hindus living in leh and major ladakh towns , not only seasonal workers but permanent settlers to , be it from jammu , Punjab, rajasthan or Nepal even now people from uttarakhand and harayana are migrating , you saying there is no Hindu in ladakh is not accurate, even me personally my parents , we are settled in ladakh for more then 15 years as Hindus , and iam proud that while being Hindu I have freedom to practice my religion in ladakh and I share a common ladakh heritage and brotherhood.

  16. This Author is filled with hatred and have no idea about ground reality of ladakh. He shamelessy write the same propaganda few months ago on the another website. I think he is watching it from his sick mentality and dogra mindset perspective. If he really cares about Buddhist then write also one article about oppression of dogras on ladakh during doga rule in ladakh. Let’s see

    • The author is a hindu extremist who wants to divide ladakh . It’s a complete lie. It Didn’t mention muslim of ladakh who are indigenous of ladakh as supporter . If muslim of leh balti and changpa background or mix , Muslim of Kargil from purgi , brokpa tribe , muslim of nubra did accepted The king who invaded kashmir. Then according to him it’s an occupation of ladakh which is proudly said.

  17. I respect Mr Hari’s opinion, but it is not even close to the real developments happening in Ladakh at present. One thing I am finding difficult to digest is not only the title but the very idea of why Ladakh should not be granted statehood, because Ladakh has two different religions and strength. Name any Indian state that consists of only one religion, even if they do they’ll have sectoral or cast differences.

  18. I think more research is needed here. Do centre ask the kargil people whether they want statehood nor not. I think it’s just a plan or can cause dispute between two friendly district. Listen the voice of Ladakh not only leh thank you

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