Prof Hari Om
Ladakhis in general and Buddhists in particular have once again demonstrated their strength and remarkable commitment to the Ladakhi cause and proved that they could go to any extent to take on the powers-that-be at the centre to defend and promote further their social, cultural, economic and political interests. They have been fighting relentlessly since 1949 and they take no moment to keep aside their personal interests to come on a common platform the moment they feel that their identity and interests are under threat. One can refer to any number of instances in this regard.The latest similar development took place only on September 22. That day, all political parties and all socio-religious organizations rose above their political and ideological differences and launched what they called People’s Movement. They demanded that Ladakh be brought under the ambit of the Sixth Schedule of Indian Constitution so that it could exercise the BODO Council-like powers. But more than that, they also announced boycott of 6th election to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh, which was fixed on October 16.The most significant aspect of the big development in Ladakh was that the Ladakh unit of BJP joined the movement and offered it its unconditional and unflinching support. So much so, they lambasted Ladakh BJP general secretary (organization) Ashok Koul and raised such slogans against him as “Go back Ashok Koul” and “you can’t speak for us”. Koul had caused an affront to their self-respect by terming their demands “non-sense”. Later on, he tendered an apology for his provocative remarks. So much so, the Ladakhi BJP leaders didn’t even listen to the then BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, who had been sent to Leh to diffuse the potential dangerous situation there.That the Ladakhi BJP is religiously committed to the cause of the region and its people could be seen from two other instances. On November 15, 2018, just five months before the general elections, BJP MP from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang reigned from the party on the issue of UT status. And on May 3, 2020, former minister and newly appointed Ladakh BJP president, Chering Dorjay, resigned from the primary membership of the party. He resigned for two reasons: the alleged failure of UT administration to evacuate Ladakhi passengers, patients, pilgrims and students stranded at various places in the country because of COVID 19 pandemic and inability of autonomous councils in the regions to function as per the Council Act because of “official interference”.Anyway, such was the impact of the People’s Movement that on September 26 the BJP high command asked Union Minister of State with Independent Charge of Sports, Kiren Rijiju, to establish contact with leaders of Ladakh People’s Movement to defuse the crisis. His intervention delivered the desired results. A day later, leadership of People’s Movement withdrew the call to boycott Leh Council elections. They took this decision only after Home Minister Amit Shah assured a three-member delegation of the Movement that “the Government of India is committed to empower the Hill Councils of Leh and Kargil and would safeguard interests of the people of the UT of Ladakh”. Not just this, on September 28, Union Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy, at a press conference in Leh allayed fears of Ladakhis regarding constitutional safeguards to the region and declared that “the issues will be resolved through a consensus after the elections to the Leh Council are over”. That MoS Home had to come to Leh to conciliate the agitating Ladakhis spoke for itself and showed that the Ladakhi BJP leadership knew the way to get things done.Contrast the Ladakhi BJP leadership with the Jammu-based BJP leadership and you will find the difference. Take, for example, the role of J&K BJP leadership between 1998 and September 2020. It consistently betrayed people of Jammu province to Kashmiri leadership on its right side. Its attitude to the 1998 student movement in Jammu aimed at obtaining for the region Agriculture and Mata Vaishno Devi Universities and fair share in medical and engineering colleges was negative. Not just negative. It opposed the Farooq Abdullah Government’s Bill on the Universities. In 2002, it supported the Farooq Abdullah Government’s anti-Jammu move in the assembly that banned delimitation for almost 35 years. And the J&K BJP leadership crossed all the lines between March 1, 2015 and June 18, 2018 to please both the Muftis – Mufti Sayeed and Mehbooba.It’s hardly necessary to explain what the BJP ministers and legislators did during this period, called the dark chapter. Suffice it to say that they extended full support to the ill-intentioned Muftis on the very crucial issues of land, water, terrorists, separatists, Army, Article 370 and Article 35A, Jaziya on chopper service to Mata Vaishno Devi and Baba Amarnath Shrines, cow, beef eating, hoisting of national tri-colour by non-Kashmiri students at NIT Srinagar, Budha Amarnath yatra, Vande Mataram slogan, Rohingyas, demographic changes, employment, funds for developmental activities, appointments in Universities and in other departments, AIIMS, Rasana episode and demand for CBI probe and so on. The BJP ministers and legislators willingly and happily gave their fullest possible support to the Muftis whose single point agenda was to unsettle the settled in J&K. The memories of what one BJP minister said on the floor of the assembly to please CM Mufti are still too fresh to be forgotten. The minister had said: “India is using our land and water”. Even the NC, the Congress and the PDP ministers had never dared to make such a statement against India. Earlier, it had gone back on its solemn commitments that it will work for the state’s trifurcation or regional council invested with legislative, executive and financial powers.The story of J&K BJP post-June 2018 is no different. Is has been betraying the people of Jammu province almost on a daily basis. Just one example: it’s indifferent attitude towards the new proposal of the J&K School Education Department that rigorously excludes Jammu province in terms of teachers and promotes Islamic studies, Arabic, Kashmiri and Urdu and contemptuously ignores Vedic studies, Sanskrit, Hindi and Dogri.This is the difference between Jammu based leadership of J&K BJP and the Ladakhi BJP. The difference is glaring. Will the J&K BJP muster courage and do for the people of Jammu province what the Ladakhi BJP does for Ladakh and Ladakhis withour fear or favour? It’s doubtful. It’s leaderless, rudderless, ideologically bankrupt and politically half-baked. The people of Jammu province have to fend for themselves as other political players are also committed to Kashmir and Gupkaris.
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