In its just concluded budget session, the state legislature passed a resolution paving the way to make Ladakh a separate region. Although the Chief Minister resented the move, the damage has been done. It did not happen suddenly. The people of Ladakh and their supporters elsewhere in the state had been campaigning for it for quite some time. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met office-bearers of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) in Srinagar during his visit to the state, and assured them special packages for Ladakh. While a politician seeking the peoples’ mandate can go to any extent to woo the electorate, people concerned in Kashmir have urged him and all others to refrain from using the word `region’ with Ladakh.
The Wet Desert, for the information of Rahul Gandhi and other vested interests in Jammu and elsewhere, is not a separate division. It has always been a part of the Kashmir division and comes under the jurisdiction of the Divisional Commissioner for Kashmir. The total population of Ladakh is less than that of the Batmaloo area of the Srinagar city, and cannot, therefore, be treated on par with the Jammu or Kashmir divisions. Yes, it can be a sub-division and should be treated as such. The government of India has been giving special packages to the sub-division for political reasons.
Ladakh, especially the Leh district, wants total integration with India. It wants ‘azadi’ from its people call the `hegemony’ of Kashmir. They hate Kashmiris and make no bones about it. Way back in 1986, they boycotted Kashmiri Muslims. The boycott continued for a couple of years. Recently, shops run by Kashmiris were demolished by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. The LAHDC itself was created to appease communal forces. Dr Farooq Abdullah did it immediately after assuming office as Chief Minister in 1996. When a journalist asked him why a similar demand from the Chenab Valley was ignored, he said: “karna padta hai (It is a compulsion).”
Ladakh is a part of the state and has a right to funds and development. But any preferential treatment is simply unacceptable. Let it get what a sub-division is entitled to. While granting packages to the Leh district, the Government of India ignored Kargil. This district remains as backward and underdeveloped as any other remote area of the state. Why? Everybody knows the answer. To make it clear for Rahul Gandhi, Kargil is a Muslim-majority district, and its people have been identifying with the Valley.