Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ladakhis seek independence from Kashmir Author: Myra MacDonald Publication: Yahoo News



Christopher Garbrandt 

The regions of Jammu and Ladakh want to stay with India and be integrated with it moreso (http://www.hvk.org/articles/0802/224.html). 

Ladakhis seek independence from Kashmir
Author: Myra MacDonald
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: August 28, 2002
URL: http://in.news.yahoo.com/020828/137/1ufro.html

Kashmir may have been grabbing all the attention with its separatist revolt against Indian rule, but the remote northern desert region of Ladakh has its own concerns -- it wants independence from Kashmir.

Up here on the Himalayan plateau, the rebellion which has claimed at least 35,000 lives in the lush Kashmir Valley down below wins little sympathy from the fiercely pro-India Ladakhis.

And though their population of Buddhists and Muslims make up just 2.3 percent of Jammu and Kashmir, they are determined to assert the authority that goes with having more than three-fifths of its territory, albeit much of it uninhabitable.

They want to be given their own status as a Union Territory within India, leaving Kashmiri separatists to pursue their revolt aimed at reversing a decision to give the region to India rather than Pakistan at independence in 1947.

"We cry. We have been crying right from 1947," says Tsering Samphel, president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association which is leading the campaign to break away from Kashmir.


"We are at the mercy of the Kashmiri Muslims," he adds. "We want more integration with India. They want separatism. We are for India. The majority of them are for Pakistan."


Ladakh, a vast high-altitude desert overlooked by snow-capped Himalayan peaks, has long been used to living in the shadow of its bigger neighbours -- China, Pakistan and India.


In its heyday, its capital Leh attracted traders from Yarkand in China, Tibet and Kashmir, before wars with Pakistan and China left its borders firmly closed to the north and west and turned the attention of the Ladakhis south to New Delhi.


Now it depends on tourists who throng through the streets of Leh -- transformed into a prosperous town of hotels, handicraft shops and trekking agencies -- mixing incongruously with Buddhist monks in purple robes and Indian soldiers in jeeps and trucks.

For years Ladakhis complained about being looked down up by the refined Kashmiris in Srinagar, which dominates the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir.

"I think they figured that we were a bunch of tribals sitting in the mountains," quipped historian Siddiq Wahid, currently principal of Leh's Islamia Public School.

HOPES AND DREAMS

But with intense international pressure to end the Kashmir revolt -- which brought nuclear-armed Pakistan and India to the brink of war in June -- Ladakhis are hoping their dream of breaking away may come true.

"Ladakh must get Union Territory status because it will improve everything," says Skarma Choskit, one of dozens queuing up at the magistrate's office in Leh to get identity cards for state elections due in September and October.

"I feel sorry for the Kashmiri people. They are fighting all the time. People are dying there every day," she said.

In the tradition of Indian politics, where people will never use a short simple word when a longer one is available, the new buzzword for fulfilling the Ladakhi separatist ambition is "trifurcation" -- splitting the state into three.

Under this plan, Jammu and Kashmir would be carved up into mostly-Hindu Jammu, Muslim Kashmir and Ladakh, whose population of 233,000 is divided roughly equally between Muslims and Buddhists.

Though Ladakh has been mostly insulated from the separatist revolt -- it is cut off from Kashmir by snow for eight months of the year -- it says its economic development has suffered, its tourist trade badly hit this year by the India-Pakistan crisis.

Its western border has also been the scene of heavy fighting between the Indian and Pakistani armies massed on the military Line of Control that cuts down through Jammu and Kashmir.

"We are not a part of that turmoil, but we suffer and we have suffered for 12 years," says Pinto Narboo, a former state government minister. "Trifurcate this whole wretched region."

ANCHORING DOWN KASHMIR

Like everything to do with Kashmir, it is not that simple.

No mainstream political party is keen to carve up the state, fearing this could be an implicit acknowledgement that Muslim Kashmir should have gone to Islamic Pakistan when it split from mostly Hindu but secular India in 1947.

"They feel Ladakh and Jammu must anchor Kashmir," complained Rigzin Jora, spokesman of the Hill Council, a development body set up in 1995 to give Ladakhis more say in their affairs.

And Ladakh's Muslims, while keen for more autonomy, oppose trifurcation -- ironically they feel put upon by the more prosperous Buddhists of Leh, just as the Buddhists of Leh resent the Kashmiris, and the Kashmiris resent the power of New Delhi.

But with state assembly elections coming up in Jammu and Kashmir, the whole question of trifurcation is gaining fresh impetus.

It has even gained support from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationwide network of Hindu nationalists and the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which runs the coalition government in New Delhi.

Though the RSS is fiercely opposed to ceding Kashmir to Pakistan, it has long championed the cause of Jammu's Hindus, often victims of the militant revolt spilling over from Kashmir.

Supporters of trifurcation say that after the elections, India will have to give greater autonomy to Kashmir to try to end the revolt which some fear could ultimately trigger the world's first nuclear war between India and Pakistan.


"How else are we going to find a solution to Kashmir? They will have to be given something," said Jora. "If they get more autonomy, the people of Ladakh and Jammu will oppose it. We will be a stumbling block in their way."


The BJP has so far ruled out splitting up Jammu and Kashmir into three but is seen as sympathetic to setting up three regional councils in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.


Narboo, who is now campaigning for the BJP, said he saw it as the party most sympathetic to trifurcation.


"The BJP might be somewhat ambiguous on this issue, but it is the only party which is at least prepared to consider it.


"This ambiguity is perhaps based on the consideration that if things do not improve in the (Kashmir) Valley there is no option but to reorganise the state into three regions."

According to Yahoo! News, "The desire for independence for the state is not shared in the Jammu and Ladakh parts however, where 76 percent and 70 percent wanted a 'complete merger' of the state into India" (http://ca.rss.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/100912/world/india_unrest_kashmir_poll). Only the population in the smallest part of the state, the Kashmir Valley, wants to be independent. Also, "Kashmiri Pandits who are patriotic and nationalists" want to stay with India (http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=23883). Jammu Muslims fought alongside with Jammu Hindus to beat Pakistani sponsored terrorists who came to the city. The Muslim Gujjars of Jammu are even organizing a convention to show their support for India and their opposition to Kashmiri separatists (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2010/20100918/nation.htm#3). “Thousands of Gujjars will assemble in my hometown Rajouri soon to show that there is a different ground reality outside the valley,” said Chechi. He was of the view that the delegation’s visit would be a failure “because the valley’s political leaders and the Hurriyat won’t let them find a solution...Why does the Union Government not want to talk to Muslim Gujjars and hill-people who are pro-India and have full faith in its Constitution?” questioned Chechi. “All this talk of ‘azadi’ and autonomy is nothing but a big plan to get more funds from the Centre and join hands with Pakistan,” he said (Chaudhary Qummar Rubbani Chechi). The Ulema of the most prestigious Islamic University have declared Jammu & Kashmir to be a part of India (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/Kashmir-an-integral-part-of-India-say-Deoband-clerics/articleshow/6729157.cms). It is better for Jammu & Kashmir to be a part of India and many other Hindustani Muslims show their support for Kashmir being a part of India as they curse Geelani, Kafir-e-Azam (http://www.mid-day.com/news/2010/oct/221010-News-Delhi-Hurriyat-leader-heckled-press-conference-Shah.htm).

1 comment:

  1. J&K is heavily polarized on opinions pertaining to their political future. Jammu and Ladakh- making up more than 80% of the state's territory are staunchly pro-India, while the tiny Kashmir Valley is staunchly anti-India! All this amazingly boils down to one petty thing this world has been fighting over- religion! While Jammu is Hindu dominated, Ladakh is roughly equally inhabited by Shia Muslims and Buddhists. Kashmir Valley, on the other hand, is home to majority Sunni Muslims. So, as it turns out, it is the Sunni Muslims of J&K who appear to mostly against India and it certainly excludes most of those living in Jammu!

    Why Kashmiri Sunni Muslims are against India is not tough to understand! We have a Sunni Muslim-majority neighbor right to our West, who had shown similar signs of religious intolerance before 1947 and got exactly what the Kashmiris want in 1947- independence based on communal ideology. Kashmiri Sunni Muslims take inspiration from that and have found more in common with the Sunni Pakistan that with India. Thankfully, others across J&K don't fall in line with their radical views.

    Anyone curiously following the developments in the entire Kashmir Region will have noted that separatism has existed on both fronts- India and Pakistan (Chinese Kashmir- Aksai Chin is uninhabited). Pakistan-administered Kashmir is divided into the larger Gilgit-Baltistan and the tiny Azad J&K. What is largely unknown to most people across the world is the fact that separatism in Pakistani Kashmir Regions is more pronounced than in Indian Kashmir, though the voices have been successfully muted without much notice. Of course there is no whiner for Pakistani Kashmir just as Pakistan is for Indian Kashmir, even in case of an ant's crushing!

    In Azad J&K, which is Sunni Muslim-dominated and directly related to our Kashmir Valley, sentiments are largely pro-Pakistan or pro-Independence. But in the larger Gilgit-Baltistan, whisch is Shia Muslim-dominated, sentiments are hugely anti-Pakistan and the dissent is so strong that the overall figures of separatism in Pakistan-ruled Kashmir emerge higher than those in Indian-ruled Kashmir, as of 2010- when Indian Kashmir Valley was on the boil, which means currently the figures will be even more tilted in favor of India!!!

    What amazes me is the fact that our government has repeatedly ignored the killings of Shias in Gilgit-Baltistan and the lack of autonomy in that region, unlike Azad J&K which is more pro-Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan has politically divided its Kashmir into 2 regions, unlike India which has maintained the entire J&K despite it being a cluster of 3 incompatible regions. We also have given complete autonomy to J&K and they have their own independent constitution too! Despite all this, it is our Kashmir which is at the receiving end, only because of some religious bigots wanting another Pakistan to our north and hence getting moral, diplomatic and militant support from its motivator in the bargain.

    India too should openly express the suppression of people in Gilgit-Baltistan. Kargilis have repeatedly Indian Govt to interfere in the sectarian violence in that region but our government only feels good in answering Kashmir Valley rhetoric initiated by Pakistan. Let us try to woo Gilgit-Baltistanis by supporting them. They may want to join India, who knows. That region is extremely important to us as it will directly connect us with Afghanistan and hence to Central Asia through the Wakhan Corridor. This will reduce our dependence on Pakistan to offer us route to connect to Central Asia and Iran. Already much of Gilgit-Baltistan is a part of Ladakh region. So we must try to reclaim it diplomatically, much the way Pakistan has done to get Kashmir Valley from us. Time to give them back in kind!

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